Even as SpaceX is investigating the cause of the Sept. 1 explosion that destroyed a Falcon 9 rocket as it sat on the launch site in Cape Canaveral, Florida, the company hopes to get back to flight before the year is over. However, the incident may have caused some of its clients to start considering other options for their business.
Inmarsat, a British satellite communications company, is one of the customers of SpaceX whose satellite was scheduled to go into orbit this year. But following the Sept. 1 incident, launch of Inmarsat’s fourth satellite in its Global Xpress series, the I-5 F4, has been delayed to 2017, leading the company to consider other options for its future launches.
In an interview Thursday, Inmarsat CEO Rupert Pearce said a satellite due to be launched next year, part of the company’s planned infrastructure to provide high-speed wireless internet to airlines that fly in European skies, may be shifted to another launch rocket.
“We are actively looking at alternatives,” Pearce said, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The Falcon 9 explosion that occurred during refueling destroyed an Israeli Amos-6 communications satellite that Facebook wanted to use to provide internet in sub-Saharan Africa. SpaceX, owned by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, suspended all flights while it investigated the cause of the accident, in turn delaying the launches of satellites for which it had already taken orders. It is this delay that Inmarsat wants to avoid for its other satellites.
However, Pearce added his company could continue with SpaceX if it was given an earlier launch date. He also said that despite considering other launch companies, Inmarsat was likely to continue with SpaceX, and praised the way the Elon Musk company is handling the episode.
“The problems they have encountered are readily understood and easily fixable. We have not lost faith in Falcon or SpaceX. In fact, SpaceX behaved very well and professionally in dealing with adversity here,” Pearce said.