DPM Heng Swee Keat at Global Space and Technology Convention 2024

DPM Heng Swee Keat | 15 February 2024

Speech by Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies Heng Swee Keat at the Global Space and Technology Convention 2024 on 15 February 2024.


Mr Jeremy Chan, Chairman, Singapore Space and Technology Limited,

Mr Peter Ho, Chairman, Office for Space Technology and Industry, Singapore, 


Ladies and gentlemen,

Good morning. Let me first warmly welcome all of you, especially our guests from overseas who have travelled great distances, to the Global Space and Technology Convention 2024.

Professor Stephen Hawking, the famous cosmologist, once said that “To confine our attention to terrestrial matters would be to limit the human spirit”.Space has, indeed, been a long-standing source of human fascination.

Astronomy is one of the oldest natural sciences. Many civilisations across history drew inspiration from space to make sense of our place in the universe.

From the launch of the first space-based observatory, the Orbiting Astronomical Observatory over 5 decades ago, to the James Webb Space Telescope, we have made remarkable progress in understanding space and the universe to lunar landings and the International Space Station (ISS).

The development of space-based technologies has, in turn, made our lives here on Earth easier, more seamless and more connected.

For example, the Global Positioning System or GPS uses satellites to provide real-time location information, enabling a wide range of mobile applications for transport, commerce, and healthcare.

Satellite communications have also helped to bridge the digital divide by connecting remote communities, thereby enhancing social and economic inclusion.

Remote sensing data has supported the development of damage proxy maps, ensuring timely and efficient humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts. The development of these was made possible by significant human, capital and scientific investment – by governments, industry and academia, individually and collaboratively.

The diverse constellation of participants at this year’s Convention provides an excellent platform for us to exchange ideas and explore deeper collaboration – to make the best use of space and build a better future for the world.

Space is an exciting and promising frontier for human progress.

Today, the space sector is valued at over US$500 billion globally. By 2030, just 6 years from now, this is projected to more than double – to exceed US$1 trillion.

Space has also become more accessible, as advances in technology have lowered the costs of launch significantly.

Here in Singapore, as in several other countries, we have seen an uptick in space sector activity over the past decade.

We launched our first locally built satellite in 2011. Twelve years later, in 2023 alone, we launched 9 satellites, bringing our national total to more than 30.

As interest and momentum in space grows, a key question is – how do we harness space responsibly and purposefully to improve lives here on Earth?

The theme for this year’s convention is “Space for a sustainable, smart and secure world”.

For example, space technologies can be harnessed to address climate change.

Weather satellites already provide vital forecast data that help us prepare for extreme weather events.

Remote sensing technologies also monitor deforestation and changes in land use, helping to develop effective climate mitigation strategies.

Precision agriculture, enabled by satellite imagery and data, improves crop monitoring, water management, and resource allocation. This optimises agricultural practices and ultimately enhances food security.

Space technologies can also be harnessed to enhance efficiencies in global transportation and logistics.

In aviation, for example, space-based technologies can help airlines optimise flight trajectories and plan fuel-efficient routes.

Likewise, maritime operations can also be enhanced through satellite-based systems that allow for precise tracking and coordination.

Satellite data, coupled with artificial intelligence, can enable intelligent ocean routing methods that reduce fuel consumption and lower emissions by up to 5%.

I have outlined some valuable use cases – what we can harness space for. But how can we best achieve this? Let me suggest three ways.

First, we must identify purposeful niches to pursue research and innovation in space technology. In particular, we must focus on opportunities that advance space technology in an impactful, responsible and accessible manner.

As technology evolves rapidly in this domain, we must invest in safeguards to ensure the safe and secure use of space.

For example, Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University or NTU is undertaking research into developing an edge computing algorithm for space object detection.

Such technologies allow in-space mapping of space objects and debris for space situational awareness, and will become more critical as space becomes more crowded.

Supported by Singapore’s Office for Space Technology and Industry or OSTin, Singapore company Addvalue Technologies is also developing a next-generation Inter-Satellite Data Relay System, or IDRS.

Expected to be ready by 2026, this next-generation system will meet the growing demand for smaller, more powerful satellites in low Earth orbit.

This will enable wider use of applications like Earth observation, AI-based surveillance, and space situational awareness.

Successfully pursuing various niches in space technology will require diverse pools of talent. This brings me to my second point – we must build talent across domains to uplift our overall space capabilities.

To harness space and solve real-world problems, we need to bring together creative imagination, research expertise, patient and committed capital, and entrepreneurial acumen.

Talent in the growing space sector must nurture T-shaped skills, combining deep expertise with cross-disciplinary competencies.

One way to do this is to develop linkages and promote porosity across disciplines and sectors, to better nurture talent who can come up with cutting-edge solutions.

Linkages between academia and industry will help yield new insights that can create real-world impact.

I earlier mentioned the role of space in addressing climate change.

At COP-28 in Dubai last December, ST Engineering Geo-Insights and the Centre for Nature-based Climate Solutions at the National University of Singapore, or NUS, unveiled the NUS Decision Theatre.

This collaboration will use space-based data to inform decision-making on nature-based carbon projects, enhancing the efficiency of cross-border carbon trading and creating new economic opportunities.

In addition, linkages within industry can also help startups and companies to pursue innovation at scale and push the frontiers of space technology.

It is in this spirit that ST Engineering Satellite Systems is leading a consortium in Singapore demonstrating high-speed inter-satellite communications to serve applications such as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, and deploying advanced technologies like new power modules.

Importantly, just as watching the lunar landings over 50 years ago sparked an interest in space among an entire generation globally, we must also cultivate the next generation of space enthusiasts.

To do so, we must not only pique the interest of our youth in space, science and technology. We also have to develop pathways for them to pursue these passions through their schooling years and into the workforce.

So I am glad to hear that students from the NUS College of Design and Engineering, worked with researchers and industry partners to launch the Galassia-2 nanosatellite into space last year.

Conceptualised, designed and built by an inter-disciplinary team of students and staff, the nanosatellite will conduct remote sensing, using on-board cameras, for agriculture and environmental change.

If good teamwork within a university enabled us to launch a nanosatellite, imagine what more we can achieve through teamwork across countries! So my third point is that to optimise the use of space and its potential, we must forge closer cross-border collaborations and bring the best minds together to tackle shared challenges and pursue opportunities.

Some of the greatest challenges that we face today and, in the future, such as climate change and the next pandemic, are not confined by borders. Neither should the solutions we use to respond to them.

Collaboration is key to building a better future. Working together enables us to leverage each other’s strengths, and to advance technology in an inclusive, impactful and accessible way.

We must therefore foster global and regional networks – to share knowledge and resources in space technology and promote mission-oriented research collaborations that tackle shared challenges.

It is in this spirit that Singapore has actively deepened our cooperation on space with partners around the world.

In 2019, Singapore joined the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, an open and inclusive multilateral platform for international space discussions.

This is reinforced by our bilateral collaborations with various partners like the US, Luxembourg, Thailand and the UK, which as Jeremy mentioned earlier is the “Featured Country” at this year’s Convention.

In Southeast Asia, we also actively contribute to the ASEAN Sub-Committee on Space Technology and Applications, to advance regional cooperation on space technologies, and to promote greater sustainability and connectivity across the region.

Our research ecosystem has also forged impactful collaborations with space agencies and research institutes globally.

The Centre for Remote Imaging, Sensing and Processing (CRISP) at NUS has partnered with the French Space Agency and French research institute CESBIO.

Together, they use satellite data to improve the estimation of changes in forest biomass, which can help to refine emissions data and forest carbon monitoring.

Such cross-border collaborations not only foster stronger research outcomes but can also yield greater applied impact.

One example is applications to support humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

When the Turkey-Syria earthquake struck in February 2023, the Earth Observatory Singapore’s Remote Sensing Lab at NTU partnered with space agencies from Japan, Europe and the US to provide damage proxy maps supporting disaster relief efforts, thereby helping to save precious lives.

Let me conclude. Over the years, our efforts to better understand space have shown us that we can defy the odds.

In scientific research today, we describe near-impossible goals as “moonshots” – a name drawn from lunar missions of earlier decades.

Going forward, pushing new frontiers in space technology will require us to do 3 things in tandem.

First, to identify and pursue impactful niches in space technology. Second, to build a diverse talent base, including nurturing the next generation, to uplift the global space ecosystem over the long-term. And third, to build closer cross-border collaborations as we tap on space to solve pressing shared challenges.

Since 2008, the Global Space and Technology Convention has grown into one of the premier gatherings for the space community in the Asia-Pacific, bringing together expert minds and diverse perspectives for a rich discussion on how to bring the sector forward.

Singapore’s space ecosystem of more than 2,000 professionals and researchers provides a vibrant base from which to pursue innovation with impact.

More than 60 local and international space companies are already based in Singapore, including leading satellite companies with regional headquarters in Singapore tapping the growth potential across Asia.

Some of our homegrown companies are exhibiting their solutions at the Singapore Pavilion here, and I invite you to pay them a visit.

The public sector, too, actively taps on space-based technologies to drive efforts towards building a smart, safe and sustainable city.

Later this morning, you will hear from the Singapore Land Authority on how it uses real-time positioning information to enable intelligent construction practices, study vertical movement of land in response to rising sea levels, and monitor island-wide atmospheric moisture levels.

Since 2021, Singapore’s Space Technology Development Programme or STDP has provided researchers, universities and companies with seed funding and resources for new and innovative space technology solutions.

This includes the edge-computing algorithm for space object detection that NTU is currently developing, which I mentioned earlier.

ST Engineering Geo-Insights has also tapped on the STDP to develop a crop health dashboard.

This uses geospatial data and artificial intelligence to enable deeper understanding of crop health and earlier identification of crop disease – leveraging data from space to strengthen our food security.

As the space sector charts your course through 2024 and beyond, I encourage you to consider partnering companies, professionals and researchers based in Singapore to leverage this domain and build a better world and future.

I wish you fruitful discussions over the next 2 days, and to our friends from overseas, a meaningful and memorable time in Singapore. Thank you.