Myanmar is planning to deliver its first ever rocket, entering an unlikely group of emerging space nations aimed at saving millions from environmental disasters.
Future micro-satellite “mega telescope” from nine Asian countries will monitor typhoons, earthquake activity and water flows, as well as include data on land usage, crop production and disease outbreaks. It is Myanmar’s first space mission, in a partnership that involves the Philippines, Vietnam and Indonesia, the least economically developed nation.
According to Dr Kyi Thwin, rector of Myanmar Aerospace Technology University, the advantages of viewing the world from space equal the millions of dollars Myanmar is investing.
It’s only less costly if they construct our own satellite,” he informs AFP from the inside of the university’s space shuttle-shaped building near Meiktila city, adding that the project would drive Myanmar’s “leap-frog” economy advance.
But Myanmar is still in a separate atmosphere from the major space nations-strong wind swept the shuttle’s nose roof away and the university has no spare money for fixes. Yet launching satellites with scientific advancements-and a spirit of cooperation-is no longer the privilege of nations like the United States, Russia , and China.
Dr Yukihiro Takahashi from Hokkaido University, one of two leading Japanese institutes, points to Nigeria, which has been a regional center for developing inexpensive satellite technology.
The aim is to launch about five micro-satellites per year, per weighing under 100 kg and with a lifetime of five years, before the consortium manages about 50 orbital machines. Myanmar’s first donation would cost a US$ 16 million (S$22.17 million) comparatively non-astronomical-a fraction of the US$ 100 million bill or more for traditional satellites.
The project will take place abroad, but Myanmar will have its own ground control center, operating with a Japanese equivalent. Myanmar will be one of the key teams, Dr Takahashi told AFP, adding that at a later date Malaysia, Thailand, Bangladesh and Mongolia would also join the squad.
He claims the cameras of the project are among the strongest in space, capturing near-continuous photos that will turn into 3-D versions of typhoons or disaster-stricken areas. We will also track shifts in land usage, spanning from sustainable erosion and illicit mining.
It makes a lot of sense-strategically, economically and socially-for these countries to develop capacity to fulfill their own risk profiles. The Asian group is “incredibly ambitious” and a means for private businesses to purchase costly satellite imagery.
The launches will also have a good payback; every dollar the US invests on space is expected to contribute to the economy up to US$ 40. Myanmar’s first group of seven aerospace engineers had their bags packed for several months, preparing for pre-launch production flights to Japan.
Yet their travel ambitions are already on pause, stymied by border closures from coronavirus-and time is short, with Myanmar’s first flight set for early 2021. As engineer Thu Thu Aung, who listens to the latest briefing under strict limits of physical distance, she says she is delighted to be on the mission, acknowledging that her fascination with space arose from seeing films about valiant pilots when she was young.