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Aiming high: Singapore space industry gets boost with new satellite centre

Second Minister for Trade and Industry S Iswaran says ST Electronics Satellite Systems Centre will help catalyse a vibrant satellite ecosystem here, boosting both SMEs and the research community. 

SINGAPORE: The developing local space industry marked a a milestone on Tuesday (Aug 19) with the opening of Singapore Technologies (ST) Electronics' custom-built facility for the designing and manufacturing of satellite systems. 

The six-storey ST Electronics Satellite Systems Centre, located in Ang Mo Kio, has a total floor area of over 11,000 square metres. The facility includes laboratories for development work in remote sensing satellites, as well as a 12m-high clean room for the concurrent assembly, integration and testing of two satellites.

ST Electronics is currently constructing the flight model for TeLEOS-1, a commercial remote earth observation satellite wholly designed in Singapore. It will be launched into space in 2015, to coincide with Singapore's 50th birthday.

ST Electronics has over 300 satellite engineering professionals in Singapore. About 100 of them are working on space-related satellite activities and the construction of TeLEOS-1, while the remainder are involved in the development of satcom networks and systems, satcom terminals and solid state power amplifiers that are sold to more than 110 countries worldwide.

Second Minister for Trade and Industry Mr S Iswaran, who was guest of honour at the official opening, said the new centre will help catalyse a vibrant satellite ecosystem in Singapore.

"With ST Electronics as a lead demand driver, there will be more opportunities for SMEs (small and medium enterprises) to extend their capabilities in space technology. Over time, this will allow our SMEs to break into the lucrative global supply chain for space-qualified components," said Mr Iswaran.

ST Electronics has already trained and certified five SMEs as suppliers of space-qualified components.

The company's push to grow its satellite business will also benefit the local research community, Mr Iswaran added. Citing data from industry body the Space Foundation, he said the global space economy grew to over US$314 billion (S$390.8 billion) in 2013, reflecting a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of about 6.5 per cent over the previous five years.

In particular, there has been an increasing demand for small satellites within the satellite manufacturing space, with more than half of the 197 satellites launched last year weighing below 100kg.

Singapore is keen to develop a satellite industry to create high quality jobs and provide new opportunities for its companies. In February 2013, the country set up an Office for Space Technology and Industry (OSTIn) under the Economic Development Board.

"Singapore is focusing on the micro and nano satellite space," noted Vice President for Equity Research at DBS Bank Sachin Mittal. "That space is more useful for remote sensing, so again it looks like a niche area and the second part where our research capabilities are very strong is image processing and data analysis. So these are the two areas where Singapore is pretty advanced and hopefully from here we can get onto the value chain," he said.