Space agency seeks satellite funds okay

Space agency seeks satellite funds okay

French firm chosen for B1bn, 4-year project

Geo-Informatics and Space  Technology Development Agency or GISTDA displays its advances at an exhibition sponsored by the Department of International Trade Promotion at the Queen Sirikit National Convention Center in September, 2016. The GISTDA now intends to construct the first all-Thai satellite, with a mission to keep an eye on all other satellites. (Photo via gistda.or.th)
Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency or GISTDA displays its advances at an exhibition sponsored by the Department of International Trade Promotion at the Queen Sirikit National Convention Center in September, 2016. The GISTDA now intends to construct the first all-Thai satellite, with a mission to keep an eye on all other satellites. (Photo via gistda.or.th)

The Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency (GISTDA), the state space agency, will seek cabinet approval for a plan to build Thailand's first state-funded "security" satellite.

GISTDA's director Anond Snidwongs said the satellite would cost one billion baht and take four years to make.

The so-called security satellite project would be the first time the space agency has been part of a project to build space technology.

Previously, it has relied on importing foreign technology such as the made-in-France Theos I (Thailand Earth Observe Satellite I).

The security satellite will help monitor where the hundreds of thousands of satellites are orbiting around the earth. "It is the kind of satellite for monitoring near-earth space objects that might fall down to the Earth, together with protecting our satellite in orbit from any crashes that might occur.

"We want to develop made-in Thailand satellites to perform this function," said Mr Anond, adding there are an estimated 100,000 objects orbiting around the planet.

Weighing only 50 kilogrammes, and orbiting 500 kilometres above the earth, the satellite would also help scale up the country's innovations in space technology and material science.

Thailand's first satellite known as Theos I entered service in 2008 and reached the end of its life in 2015. GISTDA has since chosen a contractor to build Theos II, the French firm France-Airbus Defence and Space.

If it is approved, the project would mark the first time a satellite has been built in Thailand, with a mix of imported and local parts and labour. Up to 30% of the materials would come from Thailand.

The Theos II will cost 7.8 billion baht and GISTDA, the 18-year-old state space agency, will ask cabinet to approve Theos II's contractor and the budget by the end of this month.

ACM Prachin Jantong, a deputy prime minister who oversees the national space policy committee, said the government will give GISTDA full support.

He said satellite security will help develop local human resources in space technology.

The Ministry of Information and Communication Technology and the Ministry of Science and Technology would work together on the security satellite project.

ACM Prachin said space technology is part of Thailand's natural resources and farm policy.

Theos II would help provide information from space on water resources, weather and land use for planning and managing water management and farm policy.

"The advanced technology of Theos II will help the country verify and manage big data regarding agriculture and land management to serve the government's policy on smart farming and smart cities, including technology transfer to strengthen the country's space industry development," said ACM Prachin as he visited the Space Krenovation Park in Sriracha district in Chon Buri province.

As Thailand tries to improve its science and innovation as part of its plan for the country's future, the government has given a bigger budget to science agencies.

For instance, the GISTDA has seen its budget raised to one billion baht, compared to around 200 million baht in 2010.


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