Not long after building Singapore's first locally-made satellite (X-SAT) and pioneering the country's first satellite research programme for undergraduates, Nanyang Technological University (NTU) is once again soaring to new heights in space exploration.
NTU is embarking on three new space projects:
- It will develop Singapore's first tropical weather satellite expected to be ready for launch in three years' time.
- It will be involved in the building of Singapore's first commercial satellite.
- It will conduct research on the aerodynamics and safety of high altitude vehicles.
"NTU will keep on pushing the frontiers in satellite research. NTU has already shown its satellite capabilities when we launched the X-SAT in 2011. By working with established industry partners like ST Electronics and global aerospace leader Lockheed Martin, we will further accelerate the commercialisation of made-in-NTU satellite technologies," said NTU President, Professor Bertil Andersson.
"NTU is also helping to train bright young talent for the industry. From the get-go, our students are given strong exposure to the field under NTU's unique Undergraduate Satellite Programme. Under the guidance of our experienced faculty, they have the chance to build satellites that are slated for actual launch - a clear example of how NTU prepares our students for the real world."
NTU to develop Singapore's first weather satellite
Following Second Minister for Trade and Industry S Iswaran's announcement today regarding the government's efforts to support space projects under the new Office for Space Technology and Industry (OSTIn), NTU will begin work on a new micro-satellite that will monitor tropical weather. It will conduct space-borne monitoring of the world's tropical environment.
Unlike most existing weather satellites that fly on sun synchronous orbits (orbits in which the satellite's orbital plane is at a fixed orientation to the sun), this satellite will fly on a near equatorial orbit. This allows for the gathering of high densities of data, as the satellite will orbit every 90 minutes. In contrast, the amount of data that could be collected from existing weather satellites that orbit on sun synchronous orbits is limited, since they pass by the same region only twice a day.
"The large amount of data generated from this satellite mission will be useful for local institutions to develop weather and climate models. Environmental scientists will also be able to study the tropical region in greater detail," said Associate Professor Low Kay Soon, Director of NTU's Satellite Research Centre (SaRC) and principal investigator of this project. "This reflects NTU's key mission in its five-year blueprint - to contribute to the forming of a sustainable earth."
The programme will comprise of some 30 faculty members, research scientists and engineers. NTU's undergraduate students will also have the rare opportunity to work on certain parts of this satellite programme.
Associate Professor Low says the satellite will weigh in the range of 100kg and, like most satellites, will have an operating life of three years. It will employ the use of radio frequency from GPS satellites and other radio frequencies to measure atmospheric conditions.
X-SAT team members to form part of team behind Singapore's first commercial satellite
The NTU team that successfully developed and launched X-SAT, Singapore's first home-made satellite, will be part of the team tasked to build the country's first commercial remote sensing satellite, TeLEOS-1, announced today.
The earth observation satellite is slated to be launched in 2015 and is the product of ST Electronics (Satellite Systems), a joint venture between ST Electronics (Satcom & Sensor Systems) Pte Ltd, NTU and DSO National Laboratories.
Weighing 400kg, TeLEOS-1 is designed to orbit around the equator at an orbital height of about 550km. With an update rate of 90 minutes, it will provide satellite images of one-metre ground sampling distance from an electro-optics camera.
The satellite images can be used for disaster monitoring and management, mineral exploration, precision farming, environmental monitoring, climate change studies, agriculture resource studies and management, maritime and coastal observation, urban planning and homeland security.
NTU to research on the aerodynamics and safety of high altitude vehicles
NTU will be supporting local high-tech start-up, IN.Genius, in a research project to ascertain the safety aspects of high altitude vehicles by providing aerodynamics analysis and testing, and to help formulate various system performance specifications.
Assistant Professor Daniel New from NTU's School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering will be conducting wind tunnel testing to assess the aerodynamics and to provide advice on the de-pressurization safety design aspect for such high altitude vehicles.
Updates on NTU's current fleet of satellites
Since X-SAT, Singapore's first locally-built satellite weighing 105kg, was launched into space in 2011, it has been successfully beaming images back to Singapore. NTU embarked on the X-SAT project, in collaboration with DSO National Laboratories, to promote academic interest in engineering research and development among the youth. The micro-satellite will approach its second year of successful operation this April.
NTU has also been running Singapore's pioneer undergraduate satellite programme that involves second year to final year engineering undergraduates since 2009. They are trained to develop real satellite missions. The VELOX satellite mission, for example, consists of a series of pico- and nano-satellites that will be designed and assembled in NTU.
The team has completed building two 1.3kg pico-satellites (satellites that weigh around 1 kg) named VELOX-P and VELOX-PII in July 2012. Both satellites are currently waiting for launch.
Another 4.5kg nano-satellite (satellites that weigh typically from a few kilogrammes to 20 kg) named VELOX-I is undergoing its final stages of development and is on schedule to be completed this year. NTU plans to develop four nano-satellites over its 10-year satellite road map.