NUS Engineering and the DSO National Laboratories (DSO) jointly launched the Satellite Technology and Research Centre (STAR) on Thursday, 25 January 2018. The new state-of-the-art centre will develop cutting-edge capabilities in distributed satellite systems, with a focus on flying multiple small satellites in formation or a constellation.
The new centre, which was inaugurated by Professor Ho Teck Hua, NUS Senior Deputy President and Provost, will also train undergraduates and graduate students to meet the manpower needs of Singapore’s fledgling space industry.
Supported by the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB), STAR is helmed by Professor Low Kay Soon, who is from NUS Electrical and Computer Engineering. The new centre aims to be a leader in advanced distributed small satellite systems, and will build multiple small satellites, each weighing less than one tenth of conventional satellites, and fly them together.
“NUS made its first foray into space in 2015 with the successful launch of two satellites, which demonstrated our strong capabilities in engineering and satellite technologies. The setting up of STAR will further sharpen these strengths and help to nurture a new generation of well-trained engineers and engineer-leaders who are ready to contribute to the space and aerospace industries,” said Professor Chua Kee Chaing, Dean of NUS Engineering.
In the early years of man’s space exploration, satellites were large in size, extremely expensive, and took years to build. In the past five years, there has been a new paradigm shift towards small satellites – no more than 20 kilogrammes – and this offers an opportunity for Singapore to carve out a place for itself as a key player in the new satellite application industry.
“Small satellites are relatively cheaper to produce, test and launch. They could also be mass produced and they have a much shorter time to market. A fleet of small satellites – flying in formation, swarm or constellation – could possibly cover the whole Earth and reduce latency, hence opening up new services that were not possible in the past,” said STAR Director Prof Low, who is a veteran of Singapore’s satellite programmes.
As STAR aspires to be a leading centre for advanced distributed satellite systems, it will deepen its capabilities and will also work with industry players, both established companies and new startups, by providing its expertise and state-of-the-art satellite platform or subsystems. Such partnerships are critical in building a vibrant indigenous high-tech satellite industry.
STAR will pursue its mission through three structured programmes: