When talking about satellites or other space-related subjects, most people would view such as being far from their everyday experiences. However, products derived from space-related innovations are part of most people’s lives, directly or indirectly. From the moment we wake up and tune in to morning TV shows or drive to work via navigation application. In addition, weather forecast satellite data let us know what to wear each day and warns us about natural disasters, like hurricanes, forest fires, or floods – which prevents and limits the damage done and lives lost. So, we already take advantage of space-related technologies to live our lives. Furthermore, many people may also not realize that Thailand is involved in the space industry through over 35,000 businesses, although 95% of them may be SMEs or startups. All of them, however, bring economic benefits to Thailand to the tune of about 56.122 billion THB per year.
Dr. Phornphan Tannukit, Executive Director of National Space Affairs Division, the Office of National Digital Economy and Society Commission (ONDE), stated that nowadays digital technology is being combined with space technology at an increasing rate – particularly in satellite technology. Meanwhile, a satellite no longer needs to be large affecting the reduction of development costs. Satellite developers are no longer subjected to high knowledge requirements in Sciences or Engineering. Recently, Thai youths have had success in designing and building small satellites for international competitions – having won awards and bringing honor to Thailand. Thailand never lacks smart people, but we have limited stages for those people to shine and maximize their potential.
Thailand’s government realized the importance of supporting a domestic satellite development capability as well as mission design, component design, satellite development, satellite assembly, and integration for a small satellite, likes Cubesat. Since such small or nano-satellites have low production costs and can also be used for commercial purposes with specific tasks. It also supports Thailand’s new space economy, along with international collaboration, by participating in the Asia Pacific Space Cooperation Organization (APSCO) activities so that we can gain knowledge and experience, which is important to satellite development. Dr. Phornphan also emphasized that it is one of mechanism or tool, which can be used to advance the integration of Thai knowledge and expertise across science, technology, engineering, and mathematics applied to invention and problem-solving through hands-on experience.
The APSCO CubeSat Competition (ACC) project aims to build expertise regarding the technology, which enables CubeSat development among the 8 APSCO member states, which are Thailand, China, Pakistan, Iran, Peru, Bangladesh, and Türkiye, through competition of Engineering Model (EM) development, which dimension not to exceed 3U within 3 years.
The competition allows participants of 5 teams per state to have the opportunity to learn about conceptual design and preliminary design through online training then be evaluated by ACC referee board according to international standards. The top-performing team from each member-state will be awarded 100,000 USD to produce an engineering model of their satellite design.
ACC-Thailand was initiated with the goal of supporting the activities of the ACC, which is responsible by ONDE on behalf of the Thai government and ONDE honorably selected the Mahanakorn University of Technology (MUT) as a host to run the ACC-Thailand since MUT is packed with high experience experts who have studied, researched and promoted space and satellite technology for over 25 years.
Thus, ACC-Thailand is an important milestone to inspire and give opportunity to students, experts, and those interested to use their knowledge and ability to design and build CubeSats. Moreover, ACC-Thailand is a bridge connecting the business & industrial sectors with Thai youths, including the entrepreneurs can potentially make use of the technology created by Thai youths to expand their businesses.
For the trend of satellite technology in the Asia-Pacific region, Assistant Professor Dr. Panavy Pookaiyaudom, President of the Mahanakorn University of Technology, discussed that Space technology in the Asia Pacific region has high-level advancement. China, Japan, India, and South Korea can build and launch their own satellites. They also mainly focus to create a small satellite in the Low Earth Orbit (LEO) because it does not require high cost to build and launch, and it requires fewer people and less time to develop so that more of them can be built and can work well in a satellite constellation mission, of course, it can give more beneficial to human living. Besides, it is the important tool to drive Thailand’s social and economy, which can be applied in military and civilian affairs such as law enforcement, smart city, precision agriculture, including the disaster management and protection.
Another breakthrough in communication is satellite internet, which provides global coverage and does not rely on a terrain connection. Therefore, it is more reliable and can help prevent public and private sector data loss due to poor network connectivity.
“ACC-Thailand is an important activity of MUT launched a stage for Thai youths, who are the future human capital of Thailand, to showcase their knowledge and skills.
It is also an activity model, which can develop together both human potential and rapid-changed technology. Moreover, it helps people stay current with technological trends like space technology. The activity not only unlocks the potential of Thai youths, but also drives them to create innovations which can maybe change the world,” Assistant Professor Dr. Panavy concluded.
ONDE and MUT along with the experts in space and satellite technology hope that the ACC and ACC-Thailand’s missions will bring about significant change in Thailand.
As Thailand was satellite buyer, but with this project, it can move forward to becoming a commercial satellite builder. We do not aim to create a prototype, but we aim to make commercial satellites. This will be a breakthrough in Thailand’s space economy, which will sustainably improve Thailand’s economy in the long run.