SINGAPORE - The Straits Times outlines some current and emerging space and satellite applications in Singapore.
In everyday life
• Precise positioning is important for accurate mapping, and for services such as self-driving cars and emergency fleets.
• Navigation systems and map apps rely on Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) such as the United States' GPS and Europe's Galileo, but their location accuracy may be off-course by more than 10m due to delays in the satellite signals as it travels through the atmosphere.
• To improve the reliability of navigation, the Singapore Land Authority operates a local network of GNSS reference stations that corrects satellite data to within 3cm of a person or vehicle's actual position.
• This network, the Singapore Satellite Positioning Reference Network, is used by government agencies and private companies.
Singapore's eyes on earth
• Singapore's first commercial earth observation satellite - TeLEOS-1 - was built by ST Engineering and launched in 2015.
• This satellite flies 550km above earth, and its optical camera captures high-resolution images of places at the equatorial belt.
• Urban planners can use the satellite images to create a map of a portion of land for infrastructure planning, for instance.
Disaster management and climate change monitoring
• After the Tonga volcanic eruption on Jan 15 this year, scientists at Nanyang Technological University's Earth Observatory of Singapore (EOS) used satellite images to build a digital map of the areas over the archipelago that probably suffered damage.
• The EOS Remote Sensing Laboratory processed data from satellites operated by Europe and Japan. Those satellites use a type of radar technology - called synthetic aperture radar - that creates images from electromagnetic waves that can penetrate clouds and volcanic ash.
• The colour change from yellow to red indicates the intensity of changes to the land surface caused by volcanic ash over land and tsunami waves along the coastline.
• In the area of climate change, various satellite technologies can measure environmental changes such as sea-surface temperature, the amount of ice melting, and the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
• Floods, which are expected to occur more frequently and intensely across South-east Asia, for instance, can be measured by synthetic aperture radar satellites.
Improving disaster response
• The Changi Regional Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief Coordination Centre (RHCC) and SSTL are working on Asia's first feasibility study on leveraging advanced satellite technology to better predict damage caused by natural disasters.
• The year-long study will explore technologies such as high-resolution satellite imaging, machine learning, artificial intelligence, data analytics and robotics.
• The study aims to enhance humanitarian aid by being better prepared for hazards such as floods, typhoons, tsunamis and earthquakes, and to enable better response and recovery efforts while reducing potential risks on the ground.
Space life sciences
• This is an emerging field of study into how humans, animals and even microorganisms from earth respond to the harsh and hostile environments of space.
• Advanced biomedical science can contribute to realising ways to safeguard the health of astronauts and possibly lead to the discovery of new drugs and address ageing issues.
• One field of interest is finding ways to produce food in space, which could be useful for future long space missions.
• Last year, the seeds of 22 types of herbs selected by some countries in the Asia-Pacific were sent up to the International Space Station for a month to study the effects of microgravity on the seeds.
• The seeds - including coriander andbutterhead lettuce seeds, contributed by Singapore Space and Technology Limited (SSTL) - were then returned to the respective countries, for researchers to study.
• In a separate experiment, an astronaut from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (Jaxa) grew 48 holybasil from seeds in the International Space Station for a month.
• Students from a primary and secondary school here also grew similar plants as a ground control experiment for Jaxa. They also hypothesised how plant growth will be different in a microgravity environment.
Sources: SLA, ST Engineering Satellite Systems, Associate Professor Sang-ho Yun, SSTL, Changi RHCC