Space technology: Welcome to the age of plug and play satellites

COO of Inmarsat discusses the age of plug and play satellites and the future of vibrant space industries

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An interview with Ruy Pinto, the Chief Operating Officer at Inmarsat discussing the age of plug and play satellites and the future of vibrant space industries.

What is most exciting about being a space industry executive today?

It’s the continuous innovation and change that makes the space industry to exciting. On the one hand you have the arrival of small satellite applications that are lowering the cost, access and entry barriers to the space industry. On the other, you have companies that are investing in enabling the next generation of global mobile connectivity, the ‘Internet of Everywhere’. These two ground-breaking trends are truly making the space industry a very exciting place to work at the moment.

Financial investors are looking at space more intently than they have for years: are current levels of exuberance justified?

With a market like ours, thriving on innovation, it’s not unusual to question if this exuberance is justified. But financial investors today are really starting to understand ‘space’; they understand the nature of the industry, they understand that you need long investment cycles and that there is a higher degree of technology risk and so are prepared to invest in the long term given the rewards. Just look at mobile broadband, the Internet of Things, the Internet of Everywhere. Look at the satellite constellations being talked about and the production of smaller satellites at lower costs. financial investors are watching those trends very closely.

Give us your tip for the next breakthrough space-based technology?

I think it will be the arrival of what I call ‘plug and play’ technology, which will apply to both small nanosatellites and bigger platforms. This means you can have a big satellite platform and you can re-program it once it has been launched if your business case or application has changed. Or you could have the option to launch another small satellite to meet changing market demands.

What advice would you give countries like the UAE that are on the cusp of developing vibrant space industries of their own?

I recommend light touch regulation, to allow new companies and applications to start-up and grow, because the industry can be too regulated. Secondly, selective government investment for R&D, such as seed funding for a ‘plug and play’ technology which is made available to multiple companies. Thirdly, an open mind to partnerships and scaleability – not every country will have a space industry the size of the USA, so I would encourage regional partnerships that can leverage different companies and applications across Asia, the Middle East, Europe or Latin America.

Will space elevators really happen?

Space elevators are a wonderful notion! But I don’t think we’ll see them in our generation, and the technology currently doesn’t exist – that’s not to say that it won’t happen someday. Reality has a habit of catching up with science fiction, but I don’t think It will be in my lifetime.

Ruy Pinto is participating at the Summit on the Global Agenda 2015 in Abu Dhabi.

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