University will launch tiny satellite; Thaicom’s new platform

Thai aerospace innovation is ready for lift off as a local university announced last week it will launch the first completely Thai-built satellite in August, and Thaicom, the Kingdom’s sole satellite service provider, said it will begin operating a new platform to help solve connectivity problems for ships at sea.

The tiny Thai satellite slated for launch in August is being designed and built by the King Mongkut University of Technology North Bangkok. Orbiting at an altitude of 373 miles and weighing about 2 pounds, its purpose will be to photograph the Earth with a resolution of roughly 0.6 miles per pixel.

Knacksat, an acronym for KMUTNB Academic Challenge of Knowledge Satellite, is overseeing the development of the satellite. Knacksat is collaboration between KMUTNB and the Synchroton Light Research Institute (SLRI). It has received funding from the National Science and Technology Development Agency. The satellite costs about $285,000 to build and test.

Aerospace and aviation are priority sectors under the government’s 20-year national development strategy known as Thailand 4.0, because of the innovations produced by research-and-development in those fields often result in wider economic benefits. The national strategy supports stepped up research and development, encourages creativity and innovation as essential to its goal of nurturing a more advanced economy and society.

Sarawut Sujitjorn, director of the SLRI, said the Knacksat satellite will inspire pride among Thais because it is totally Thai made.

Outer space isn’t completely alien to Thailand, however. The country has been launching satellites since the early 1990s, but it has been chiefly through private-sector ventures. The satellites, used for communications by telecoms companies, were bought from foreign manufacturers and launched from locations overseas.

Those companies eventually became Thaicom, the Kingdom’s only satellite service provider, which has launched eight communications satellites, although several are no longer in service, their lifespans having expired. Thaicom is preparing a new generation of orbiters.

Last week, Thaicom announced it was offering a new maritime platform called Nava that is designed for use by ships at sea. It will provide high-speed broadband internet coverage to vessels far from shore where connectivity has always been a problem.

“Nava targets high-potential markets, including Japan and Thailand,” said Thaicom Chief Executive Paiboon Panuwattanawong.

The company is aiming to sign up 100 ships for its service by the end of this year.