Air force satellite Napa-1 launched
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Air force satellite Napa-1 launched

Air force satellite Napa-1 launched
An Arianspace Vega rocket launches from French Guiana at 8.51am Bangkok time on Thursday, carryng Napa-1, the RTAF's first security satellite, and 52 other satellites into orbit. (Photo supplied)

The Royal Thai Air Force’s first security satellite, Napa-1, was successfully launched on a European rocket from French Guiana on Thursday morning.

The Arianespace Vega rocket, Flight VV16, lifted off at 8.51am Bangkok time from the Guiana Space Centre. The rocket was carrying 53 satellites from 13 countries into orbit. Of the 53 satellites, 7 were microsatellites, weighing no more than 15kg, and 46 were smaller nanosatellites. 

Napa-1, a nanosatellite, was to be injected into low earth orbit, its purpose to observe and survey Thai air space for defence and national security purposes.

The launch of the satellite makes the air force operational in three domains - air, cyber and space - under its 20-year strategic plan. This satellite could also be used to assist natural disaster relief operations, such as detecting hotspots to prevent bushfires, and to monitor water resources, to combat flooding and drought.

The launch of Napa-1 had earlier been postponed several times, first in September and then in December due to technical issues. Most recently, due to a typhoon passing over a tracking station in South Korea.

The coronavirus pandemic and persistent winds over the South American launch site also caused delays. 

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