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18 May 2017 · 3 min read

Global Xpress has lift off

4th and final satellite launched

Inmarsat’s high profile but somewhat beleaguered Global Express (GX) programme is now almost fully operational. The fourth and final satellite, I-5 F4, was successfully sent into orbit on 15 May. This is significant for the Aerospace and Defence industry because the Global Xpress network provides new bandwidth capacity for secure mobile communications from ships, aircraft and vehicles.

The GX constellation is made up of four Ka-band, high speed mobile broadband communications satellites, each with an anticipated life of 15 years. It is expected to be fully operational in late 2017 although the first three satellites are already up and running. The satellites themselves have been built by Boeing. The first three provide coverage of the entire globe, and the fourth is intended to be a spare as well as provide additional capacity and in-orbit back up.

The aim of GX is to allow customers from the aviation, maritime and government sectors to have secure and reliable connectivity. The US Government is reported to be the largest customer so far. Passenger connectivity in the aviation sector is still a nascent market, but demand for the service is growing.  Honeywell and Inmarsat have signed an exclusive agreement whereby Honeywell will produce the on board hardware that will enable airlines to connect to the GX network. Cobham’s wireless business is particularly dependent on GX because it provides the maritime communications equipment which speaks to the satellites. 

It seems to be that the reliance of Cobham, Honeywell and other A&D companies on GX is reflective of an ever more connected world where OEMs across all industries are interlinked with technology and communications companies who provide the infrastructure for the equipment to operate. Last week’s global Cyber attack is also a timely reminder of how this new form of warfare can impact every industry if connectivity is at the centre of everything.

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