Singapore on track to build a thriving space sector

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SINGAPORE – Since the early 2000s, Singapore has been making quiet and steady progress to establish itself in space.

In February, the government announced a $150 million investment in research and development of space capabilities to support critical areas such as aviation, navy and sustainability, and to create disruptive technologies.

The space sector currently has more than 50 companies and more than 1,800 employees.

And over the past five years, more than 10 space and satellite-related start-ups have sprung up here, said Mr. David Tan, Executive Director of Singapore’s National Space Office – the Office for Space Technology and Industry (OSTIn).

But a nascent space ecosystem wouldn’t have been possible without groups of people contemplating the foray into the next frontier.

Two of them are Ms. Lynette Tan and Mr. Jonathan Hung, respectively Managing Director and Executive Chairman of Singapore Space and Technology Limited (SSTL) – Asia-Pacific’s leading space organization.

In the early 2000s, Ms Tan and Mr Hung – who are trained in engineering and aerospace – were working at the Economic Development Board when they came up with the idea of ​​creating a space scene in Singapore.

“Fifteen years ago there wasn’t really a sector. Talent was a problem. There were no start-ups. It wasn’t Elon Musk’s time and if you talk space, they’ll think you’re crazy.” “, recalls Mr. Hung.

Their vision was met with skepticism. Ms Tan added: “My friends laughed at us… They were like, ‘Ha ha ha, oh you want to go to the moon.’ We were in our twenties and luckily our skin was thick.”

Together with like-minded people, Ms Tan and Mr Hung established the Singapore Space and Technology Association – now known as SSTL – in 2007.

The organization’s work includes accelerating the commercialization of space-related innovations and nurturing talent in the emerging industry.

Singapore did not enter the space scene to compete with major space nations and their advanced spacecraft and programs. Instead, its domain lies primarily in the construction of satellite components and the development of disruptive technologies for small satellites.

Singapore’s niche in electronics, aerospace and supercomputing has enabled the nation to evolve and pivot towards the space industry, Hung noted.

For example, local start-up Zero-Error Systems was founded by veterans of the semiconductor industry. They observed that more and more satellite manufacturers are using commercial semiconductor devices that are not designed to thrive in space. To bridge this gap, the start-up has developed radiation-hardened electronics to protect devices and extend the life of satellites.

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