SpaceX News: This Loss Is Not Good for Elon Musk

SpaceX newsElon Musk May Not Like This SpaceX News

There is never a dearth of SpaceX news, nor of news about any other companies headed by Elon Musk. But this story is definitely a blow to the company’s ambitious plans.

British satellite company Inmarsat Plc (LON:ISAT) announced on Thursday that it has signed a contract with Arianespace to launch its “S-band” satellite for the European Aviation Network (EAN) on an “Ariane 5” heavy lift launch vehicle. The EAN payload is part of a “Condosat” constructed by Thales Alenia Space (part of Thales Group), which incorporates a second payload for Hellas Sat. The launch is scheduled for mid-2017. (Source: “Inmarsat signs contract to launch European Aviation Network satellite with Arianespace,” Inmarsat Plc, December 8, 2016.)

Arianespace is the rival of SpaceX, which was supposed to launch Condosat earlier. But the delay in the SpaceX launch schedule resulted in the decision to move the Condosat to an Arianespace launch. Inmarsat is the world’s leading provider of global mobile satellite communications and the launch schedule supports the company’s ground-breaking network, which will deliver a very high-capacity broadband Wi-Fi experience for passengers flying throughout Europe.   

However, Inmarsat is looking forward to continuing to work with SpaceX. This constitutes some optimistic SpaceX news.

SpaceX had to delay the rocket launches scheduled for December amid the incomplete investigation of the failed launch of its “Falcon 9” rocket, which burst into flames on September 1.  

But SpaceX announced Wednesday that it is working to complete the final steps necessary to safely and reliably return to flight, now in early January with the launch of the “Iridium-1.” This allows for additional time to close out vehicle preparations and complete extended testing to help ensure the highest possible level of mission assurance prior to launch. SpaceX also said that it is finalizing the investigation into its September 1 incident. (Source: “Anomaly Updates,” SpaceX, December 7, 2016.)

Although the value of the Inmarsat contract is not known, the loss of this contract—together with the backlog of various other missions—does not make good news for SpaceX, and is bound to cause few problems for Elon Musk.

Moreover, according to media reports, the January launch may not be achievable. “They have not completed their investigation and therefore they do not have an (FAA launch) license,” said an Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) spokesperson. The FAA said the time it would take to grant a license to SpaceeX depends on how big a fix they propose to address the cause of the fire. (Source: “SpaceX Says It’s Ready for Liftoff Again. The FAA Begs to Differ,” Wired, September 8, 2016.)

Things had started to look good earlier when SpaceX was awarded a $112.0-million NASA contract, but Elon Musk may have to wait for a little while before the next piece of good SpaceX news comes along.