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Singapore's leap into the space industry

Photograph taken of Singapore’s mainland and surrounding islands, from an altitude of 800km. The red areas indicate vegetation while the green areas represent bodies of water. The photograph was taken by the micro-satellite X-Sat, Singapore’s first locally built satellite. Singapore announced a new push into another potentially lucrative economic sector on Feb 21, 2013 - this time setting its sights as far as outer space. The government will set up a new office to research and develop the futuristic space industry, particularly the manufacture and launch of satellites. (FILE PHOTO: NTU)

Publication Date : 22-02-2013

 

New office to research, develop sector, grow talent pool and related business

 

Singapore announced a new push into another potentially lucrative economic sector yesterday - this time setting its sights as far as outer space.

The government will set up a new office to research and develop the futuristic space industry, particularly the manufacture and launch of satellites.

Called the Office for Space Technology and Industry (OSTIn), it will also work with universities to develop the talent pool for the industry, help satellite companies grow their business here and collaborate with other countries' space agencies.

Two Singapore companies also announced ambitious new plans for Singapore's fledgling space programme.

ST Electronics, an arm of mainboard listed ST Engineering, said it has started the design and development of the first made- in-Singapore commercial satellite.

Images from the satellite, to be launched in 2015, could be used for disaster and environmental monitoring, agriculture, resource exploration and maritime observation and security.

Meanwhile, local technology firm IN.Genius outlined plans to send the first Singaporean into space on National Day 2015.

The formation of the space office, which will come under the control of the Economic Development Board, was announced by Second Minister for Trade and Industry S. Iswaran at the annual Global Space Technology Convention at the Sheraton Towers hotel.

"Singapore (has) good reasons to be excited by the promising potential the space industry has for our economy," he said.

Space could ignite interest in science and engineering among the young and provide knowledge-intensive jobs that the country wants, said Mr Iswaran.

And the industry's growth will spill over to other economic sectors here, such as transport and precision engineering, he added.

The global space economy was worth US$290 billion in 2011. Its growth has been driven by the satellite industry, which has been expanding at 11 per cent annually.

Satellites are increasingly in demand, especially in affluent Asia, because of the rapid growth of services such as imaging and communications for cellphones.

"It's a logical extension from a number of industries already existing in Singapore," said Barclays Capital economist Leong Wai Ho.

Gian Yi-Hsen, the director of OSTIn, said Singapore's nascent satellite industry will build on Singapore's existing capabilities in electronics, precision engineering and the aerospace sector.

For a start, it will focus on manufacturing small satellites weighing less than a tonne that have commercial applications, plus other activities that include receiving, processing and analysing satellite data.

Singapore's universities currently train about 80 students a year in satellite-related work.

Nanyang Technological University, which has already launched one 100kg research satellite, said yesterday that it will send up a second in 2016. This will also scan equatorial regions and send data about temperature, humidity and pressure back to researchers.

Meanwhile, the National University of Singapore plans to develop a 50kg microsatellite - its first - which will carry low-cost, lightweight hyperspectral imaging technology developed by its electrical and computer engineering department.

 

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