Speech by Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean at the Global Space and Technology Convention (GSTC) on 6 February 2020.
“Space for the Future: New Norms, New Capabilities, New Partnerships”
Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Dr Tan Wu Meng,
President of SSTA, Mr Jonathan Hung,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Welcome to Singapore. I am pleased to join you here at the Global Space and Technology Convention, or GSTC, 2020.
From the time when I was a very young boy, space has fascinated me. I am old enough to still remember the first satellites that were launched into space and how much excitement that gave me. Today, space has grown tremendously, from something which was just for the big boys and which was largely Research and Development (R&D) and experimental; to something very commercial with a lot of opportunity, and which many new players can take part in.
The GSTC is an important platform for the international space sector to meet, exchange ideas, and explore new partnerships. During your first meeting in 2008, there were 80 delegates. Today, there are several hundreds – six, seven hundred delegates from more than 38 countries. This is testament to the good work of the GSTC organisers and partners. More importantly, it reflects growing global interest in space technology and the possibilities that it may bring.
Rapid Advancement of Space
The first steps in space were the culmination of decades of technological innovation, and led to the development of many capabilities that are fundamental to modern life. We cannot imagine living without them today – GPS, weather prediction, and satellite broadcast. Today, space continues to inspire people all over the world. Last month, SpaceX successfully tested the abort system of its Crew Dragon spacecraft, which will pave the way for NASA to send passengers into space under the Commercial Crew Programme. In June last year, researchers from the National University of Singapore’s Centre for Quantum Technologies collaborated with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, to send the SpooQy-1 CubeSat to the International Space Station, before launching it into Low Earth Orbit from the “Kibo” Japanese Experiment Module. Now what does SpooQy-1 do? SpooQy-1’s mission is to demonstrate quantum entanglement in space, which is a world-first for a nanosatellite. Its success will be a breakthrough in cyber security and data encryption, and unlock a key capability for secure quantum communications.
The application of space technologies has extended far beyond exploration and scientific discovery. Space capabilities are now indispensable to our lives, and present new solutions to global challenges. Satellite imagery and tracking are used for disaster prevention and relief efforts, as well as in combating transnational organised crime. Space also provides vital information about our environment. In the 1980s, satellite data from NASA revealed a growing hole in the ozone layer, which galvanised global environmental efforts. We now depend on advanced imagery and measurements from space to help understand the effects of climate change. I was just looking at satellite images of the largest iceberg that has broken off from the Antarctic region this morning, just before coming here.
The growing demand for space services has given rise to an industry valued at approximately US$415 billion. Analysts expect the space economy to top $1 trillion within the next 20 years. This will present exciting opportunities as well as new challenges for the space community.
Space as a Global Commons
Bigger countries have traditionally dominated space investments, given the high risk, significant resources, and long technology gestation periods involved. For a long time, bigger was better in space. But space technology and access to space are getting cheaper and easier with advancements in computing, manufacturing processes and innovative business models. This is paving the way for the democratisation of space, with more new entrants than ever before active in this space.
There is room for smaller countries like Singapore and many of our regional partners here today to further this frontier, whether through research and development or designing policies to catalyse industry growth. Commercial players are also quickly gaining traction; a new wave of private-sector companies and start-ups are riding the “New Space” revolution to implement space launch and broadband services, large multi-small satellite constellations, and modular small and CubeSats with huge potential for space research. They play a significant role in bringing the benefits of space to the global population, such as by sharing satellite imagery to facilitate global space situational awareness or disaster response efforts.
In the face of these transformations in the space economy, how can we seize new opportunities and ensure that space developments are used for the well-being and benefit of all mankind? To do so, we will need to forge new norms, new capabilities, and new partnerships.
Seizing New Opportunities
First, new norms. As space grows in importance for our economies and societies, we need to ensure that all parties conduct ourselves in space responsibly and sustainably. Although we already have some structures and norms, we need new rules and norms to keep up with technological developments and new issues, such as space debris, collisions, and spectrum interferences. Many of these challenges were unforeseen, and we did not think they would become problems – what can be bigger than space? So when the international legal regime for space was first drawn up in the early 1960s, these were not issues, and the international legal regime was not equipped to deal with them. However, with the democratisation of space, the environment has become congested with more stakeholders involved, often with diverse objectives and varying capabilities. We need the collective effort of the international community, including countries large and small, and commercial enterprises to come together to share best practices and co-create practical measures that will preserve space as a global commons for us and our future generations.
Singapore is taking steps to be part of this international conversation. This year, we will participate in the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) as a new member. Singapore is also an active member of the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR). We will continue to play host to, and contribute meaningfully to, important discussions about space in the region and at home.
Second, new capabilities. The space industry involves highly complex and high-precision engineering and technology capabilities, from the design and manufacturing of space components, to the provision of satellite-based services. This calls for deep technical capabilities.
We need to work with the private sector and research institutions to invest in R&D and build up these capabilities. For example, there is potential for our partners to work with the new generation of spacetech companies in Singapore, such as SpeQtral and AddValue, that are developing innovative new technologies. In addition, we need to nurture a sustainable pipeline of scientists, engineers and researchers to support the space industry. This is why we set up the Satellite Research Centre at the Nanyang Technological University in 2009, and more recently, the Satellite Technology and Research Centre, in the National University of Singapore. Our universities are also gearing up their efforts to expose our undergraduates and young professionals to satellite integration, mission control concepts and leading-edge satellite technology.
Third, new partnerships. The opportunities in space are boundless. To leapfrog space technology development and unlock the potential of space, we need new partnerships to consolidate our collective expertise and push the frontiers of technology and what we can do with technology. Governments and space agencies have an important role to play to nurture growth in the sector and synergise space activities by domestic and regional players. To give a further boost to the growing number of space start-ups in this region, Enterprise Singapore and our home-grown company, Singapore Space and Technology Limited, will launch a space accelerator to help start-ups interested in the Asia-Pacific market. This includes access to market and capital, as well as support from international experts. The Singapore Space and Technology Association has also partnered the Singapore Land Authority and Multi-GNSS Asia to hold this year’s Multi-GNSS Asia Regional Symposium to bring together our regional community in delivering GNSS applications and projects.
In particular, this conference has been an important catalyst for stronger partnerships in the global space community. I would like to congratulate the organisers, the Singapore Space and Technology Association, or SSTA, for your good work over the last 12 years in creating this useful platform for networking and collaboration.
I have just talked about the need to forge new norms, new capabilities, and new partnerships for us to realise the opportunities from the evolving space economy. To ensure that Singapore adopts a coordinated approach, the Office for Space Technology and Industry (or OSTIn) under the Singapore Economic Development Board will take on an expanded role as a central office for all space matters beyond industry development in Singapore. OSTIn will work closely with all the relevant government agencies to ensure that Singapore takes a whole of government approach to develop a robust space ecosystem. It will one day evolve into a virtual, and perhaps, a real Singapore National Space Agency.
Our gathering here today shows that there is space in space for everyone. We are united by the common vision of harnessing the potential of space to improve the lives of our people, create new opportunities for our businesses and countries, and benefit all humankind. But just as space is limitless, this is a mammoth task that no one organisation, company or country can achieve on its own. By working together to build global collaborative networks across the public and private sectors, we can develop new capabilities and push the technological frontiers in space to create a brighter future together.
I wish all of you a fruitful 12th GSTC, and that you may forge many new friendships and generate many new ideas. Thank you.
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