An Evening with Prof Low Kay Soon

Satellite Research is one of the outstanding accomplishments of NTU’s College of Engineering. We had an engaging evening yesterday ("An Evening with Prof Low Kay Soon", 26 Oct) as Class of 85 alumnus, Professor Low Kay Soon from NTU’s Satellite Research Centre gave an update on the six satellites that the centre launched successfully between 2011 and 2015. “I wanted to make sure NTU is the first university to achieve this in this region,” said Prof Low. A truly remarkable feat of commitment to excellence and dedication to a vision!

Four members of the X-Sat team, the first Singapore built satellite in space were also present.

Founding President of NTU, Prof Cham Tao Soon let out that his interest in Space technology began when he studied the development of spinning missiles at Cambridge back in the 50s. Upon graduation, he almost ended up working for Lockheed Martin in America. It was the US Department of Defence (DoD) that stopped it due to the on-going Vietnam War. There was a “Cham” village in North Vietnam and the DoD did not fancy having a “Cham Tao Soon” working for their contractor. And so he ended up lecturing at the University of Singapore. During a visit to the University of Surrey Satellite Research Centre in 1994, he was impressed by the work done on small satellites. That made him decide to bring this back to NTU – a bold and visionary decision albeit an expensive one.

Prof Tan Soon Hie who was with NTU since 1982 as a lecturer took up the challenge to be the first Satellite Research Centre director. He was involved in the first project, the Merlion Payload and saw it being launched into space at the Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in 1999. He explained that like many others his interest in satellites began with his interest in amateur radio which are closely linked.

In 2011, a joint venture company was set up between NTU, DSO National Laboratories and ST Electronics to commercialise satellite research done locally. The Vice President of Marketing, Mah How Teck, another Class of 85 alumnus, explained the value proposition which is in delivering high-availability and high-responsiveness GeoServices over the equatorial region.

Finally, Wee Wei Tat from EDB gave the overview of how the Government plans to take this forward and create jobs for Singaporeans. The Global Space Industry is worth about US$200 billion in 2015. Singapore is involved in Satellite Services, Ground Equipment and Satellite Manufacturing Sectors except Satellite Launch. The first three sectors cover almost 98 percent of the market. The steady decline of launch costs as well as the rapid improvement in technology are key drivers of this exciting industry. 

NTU has done well to commercialise its Space research and drive the industry. As a follow-up we will be working through the Singapore Space and Technology Association to see how the Alumni can be involved more directly in the Space Industry.