Race to space

  • TECH
  • Monday, 28 Jun 2021

Penang chief minister Chow Kon Yeow (left) with Seah at a signing ceremony between Angkasa-X and USM. — Angkasa-X

A local company is hoping to attract Malaysian talents back to the country in a bid to improve Internet connectivity in rural areas in the Asean region via satellites.

Dr Sean Seah, the co-founder and CEO of Angkasa-X said the firm has managed to hire eight satellite engineering experts for its satellite research and development (R&D) team.

He shared that five of them are already back in Malaysia while the rest will return once they have completed their projects in countries like Japan and the United Arab Emirates.

“They will be based at our research and development centre in Penang and start working full-time in September,” he said, adding that the company is on a mission to attract more talents with technical expertise.

The company has also appointed Malaysia’s first astrophysicist, Prof Emeritus Datuk Seri Dr Mazlan Othman, as an honorary advisor and established an academic partnership with Penang-based Universiti Sains Malaysia’s (USM) School of Aero and Space Engineering.

“USM will take part in our research and development, and in turn the company will also be creating job opportunities for its graduates,” he said.

A plan is also underway to develop a SpaceTech Park in Penang, which Seah described as an innovation and education hub focusing on R&D, assembly and testing of satellite-related technologies.

For now, Seah said the company has secured a slot to launch its first automatic identification system nano satellite in 2022 with technology collaborator Sputnix, a privately-owned space company in Russia.

Seah conceived the idea for Angkasa-X after reading stories about students in Sabah and Sarawak struggling to get Internet access during the pandemic.

He explained that through inter-satellite link technology, hundreds of LEO satellites could link up and work together to offer high bandwidth Internet coverage without needing to lay ground cables.

The company has an ambitious plan to launch 500 units into low Earth orbit in 10 years at the cost of up to RM5bil.

“We will be designing, building, and launching our communication test satellites in 2023,” he said.Seah said he is aware that some have described the company’s plan as “mission impossible”, mainly due to the high cost.

“The way I see it, we’re just building a computer the size of perhaps a washing machine to operate in a very extreme environment which is space.

“By having the right people and collaborations, it’s not mission impossible,” he said.

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