Right step ahead in push for space tech excellence

As an engineering alumnus of the National University of Singapore (NUS) and former satellite professional, I am very excited that the NUS satellite programme has taken a baby step, yet also a significant milestone, towards extending our understanding of science and technology into space ("NUS team pushes space frontier with first satellite"; last Saturday).

Space technology is advanced science and engineering know-how developed for the aerospace industry for application in space flights, satellites and space exploration.

It includes space stations, spacecraft, satellites, and the supporting equipment and infrastructure.

Choosing to focus on satellite communications is a shrewd choice for Singapore.

Many of our daily and essential services reap the immediate rewards from such high-end research and development, such as weather forecasting, global positioning systems, remote sensing, cable and satellite television and long-distance telecommunications networks.

With the focus on satellite communications, we also avoid keen competition with better-endowed countries which are already ahead of us in terms of commercial space flights and space stations.

By building on a core engineering pool in Singapore, not only will our currently growing and nascent aerospace and space technology industries benefit directly, but other downstream industry clusters, such as IT, high-technology manufacturing and solar energy could also benefit when these talents cross-pollinate with their ideas and personal networks.

Our local universities could consider specialised academic courses or internships with the United States' National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa), the China National Space Administration or the Indian Space Research Organisation to further enlarge the research and engineering pool.

We should raise awareness of our space technology efforts through general publicity and targeted recruitment, so as to entice our brightest engineers to join this national endeavour.

A special documentary could be produced to chart the journey from the establishment of the Space and Technology Office at the Economic Development Board to the successes of NUS' and the Nanyang Technological University's satellite programmes.

This would perch Singapore on a pedestal as an attractive global hub for such high-end activities and further draw in the necessary brains, technology and investments to lay the foundation for future successes.

Edward Tay Wee Meng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 22, 2015, with the headline 'Right step ahead in push for space tech excellence'. Print Edition | Subscribe