British satellite company Inmarsat’s chief warns of potential hazardous satellite boom

On Tuesday, Inmarsat, a British satellite company, issued a warning about dangerous levels of space debris from satellite constellations planned by Elon Musk’s Starlink, Amazon and others.

Inmarsat CEO Rajeev Suri welcomed innovation in low-earth orbit satellite constellations, but added that there should be better industry and regulatory coordination as they are launched.

“Mega-constellations are talking about tens of thousands of new satellites this decade – satellites with a life expectancy of only five to ten years,” he said at a Royal Aeronautical Society conference in London.

“The resulting debris creates hazards not only in that orbit, but for anything passing through it.” We simply do not yet understand all of the risks that this creates, nor do we have all of the technologies required to effectively manage the situation.”

Inmarsat, which is being acquired by Viasat in a $7.3 billion deal, has 14 satellites in higher level geostationary orbit that provide services to shipping, aviation, and governments, but it is also planning its own small and targeted low-orbit constellation.

Meanwhile, the UK government-backed OneWeb is constructing a 650-strong network, and Amazon plans to launch its first prototype satellites by the end of the year.