Chocks away for Inmarsat's biggest ever satellite


The TD team is strewn across three countries today with Chris holding fort back in the UK, Katie tackling the gargantuan halls and aggressive looking sausages of CeBIT In Germany, and as for me; well I got the, ahem, short straw. I am in Cape Canaveral, Florida watching a rocket go up. Due to blaze though the sky at 4.15-45 PM ET today, weather permitting of course, is International Launch Services’ Atlas V Launch vehicle (yes I know it sound more like a tractor but that’s what those in the know call rockets) which hopefully will propel the Inmarsat 4 satellite into orbit.

The world’s largest and most sophisticated commercial communications satellite, Inmarsat 4 will enable the company to debut its Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN) service which will deliver communications at data speeds of around 432kbps to anyone with a suitably equipped dish across an area that spans from Northern Ireland to Western Australia. As that means voice, web surfing and messaging will now be available in areas where traditional fixed line and mobile communications networks don’t venture, Inmarsat expects the service will prove popular with the military, aid agencies, banks (who can set up ATMs in the most remote places) and ships.

Next year the company also hopes to harness the system to launch its Swift Broadband service, which among other things will deliver web surfing and e-mail at 3G style speeds to passengers in domestic aircraft.

Needless to say there are a few very anxious looking Inmarsat execs around here, who will be contemplating the fact they have invested $1.5 billion US on the whole project, which also includes the launch of two further satellites later this year. Let’s just say that come tea-time and if the Florida sky is light up by a fireball descending to earth rather than a rocket speeding skyward, the atmosphere at the post-launch party should be about as lively as a night in with Russ Abbot’s greatest hits and a pack of Pepperami.

Don’t fret too much though as 1, the satellite is insured and 2, Inmarsat has had nine out of nine successful launches so far.

If you want to watch the rocket go up live, you can see it here at 4:15-45 PM ET (that’s 9:15-45 PM in the UK).

Btw been in Florida for three days now and the only Gator I have seen was served up alongside a tomato salad on a fellow journos plate. Are they shy or something?

** update – the countdown was pulled with two minutes to go. They’ll try again tomorrow.

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