Space agency seeks approval for first Thai-built satellite

In a move that signals Thailand’s commitment to innovation and developing advanced technologies, the national space agency said last week it will ask the Cabinet to approve and fund its plan for the first Thai-built satellite, a four-year project that will cost roughly $31 million and be used for security and economic purposes, and to monitor near-earth objects.

“We want to develop made-in Thailand satellites to perform this function,” said Anond Snidwongs, director of the Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency (GISTDA), noting that there are an estimated 100,000 objects orbiting the planet.

Shooting for the stars should come as no surprise to those following Thailand’s technological progress. Aerospace and aviation are one of the 10 industries the government is prioritizing as part of Thailand 4.0, the 20-year national strategy designed to launch Thailand into a higher level of development by emphasizing innovation, creativity, research and development and higher technologies.

Thailand has had a presence in space since 1991 when a private telecommunications company launched the first Thai-owned satellite, followed by several others. But that and subsequent satellites were completely made by foreign firms and launched from space centers overseas. Thailand’s first state-owned satellite, Theos I, also foreign built, was launched in 2008 and its lifespan lasted until 2015.

Theos II would be built in Thailand using a mix of foreign and Thai technology, components and labor. GISTDA has chosen the French firm France-Airbus Defense and Space to help build the new satellite, and about 30 percent of the parts will be made in the Kingdom. The cabinet is expected to approve the budget for Theos II at the end of this month.

Deputy Prime Minister Prachin Jantong said the government of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha is fully behind the project. Building a satellite in the Kingdom will help develop Thai human resources in the field of space technology, he added. The Ministry of Information and Communication Technology and the Ministry of Science and Technology would both participate in the satellite project.

Theos II would also be used to support, guide and advance Thai agriculture, he said.

“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,” Prachin said.

Meanwhile, the government said it is revising its request to Thaicom Plc., the private firm managing Thailand’s communications satellites, for it to build Thaicom 9 as an orbiter that would be used to explore for natural resources, rather than for telecommunications and broadcasting.

The current crop of Thaicom satellites has already met the demand for telecoms and broadcasting service accessibility, and so the government believes the next satellite should serve a different function.

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