Thailand set to join space race by 2020
Team plans to design, build two satellites
Thailand plans to develop and manufacture two "Made in Thailand" satellites to be launched into space by 2020, according to Anond Snidvongs, the Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency (Gistda) executive director.
Mr Anond revealed that the two satellites will be developed by the Thailand Satellite Consortium which includes the National Astronomical Research Institute of Thailand (Narit), the Siam Photon Laboratory and Gistda.
He said the first satellite will be a microsatellite that weighs around 80 kilogrammes and is specifically designed for Earth observation from orbit, similar to spy satellites but intended for use mainly in map making.
Mr Anond said the second one will be a research satellite weighing around 50 kilogrammes. However, the building team has not decided yet what mission it will be assigned.
"It could be used to predict rainfall, earthquakes or even solar storms. Our researchers and engineers are discussing which mission will benefit Thailand the most," he said.
Mr Anond estimated that the first satellite will need a budget of up to 100 million baht to build, while the second probe will cost only around 10 million baht.
"This is very cheap compared to what we used to buy from developed nations. You can see that it could save our country billions of baht," he said.
Nevertheless, Mr Anond admitted that Thailand's capacity to build satellites is still limited to small ones. When it comes to more advanced technology or high-resolution satellites, the country still needs to rely on developed countries.
He said Thailand is now in talks with one country to purchase a high-resolution satellite worth around 3.5 billion baht.
"As we cannot produce it ourselves yet, we need to buy it. However, we also have an agreement with this seller that it will offer training to our engineers. It will allow us to send our experts to its production base to build and bring back a satellite," Mr Anond said.
Mr Anond said the development of the two "Made in Thailand" satellites is just the first step into the field for Thailand, and there are aspirations that the country could one day become a producer and exporter of such satellites.
Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister ACM Prajin Juntong has promised support for the project despite the space industry not being included in the 10 targeted industries of the Thailand 4.0 policy.
"I am confident in Thailand's capacity to build the satellite as we have a team that is willing to work hard. And when this project is finished, it will be a big leap for our country," ACM Prajin said.
"Thai people have been familiar with communications satellites like Thaicom for 25 years. The country also saw the launch of its first observation satellite 12 years ago.
However, we bought these satellites from other countries, so I think it's time that we should stand on our own feet."
"Data collected from the two satellites we are developing could benefit the country in many ways, such as in urban planning, forecasting disasters, monitoring crop yields and tracking environmentally driven diseases such as malaria," he said.