For the past four years, a device called Centauri, about the size of a shoe box, is being fine-tuned by Singapore-based start-up company, Transcelestial. The company continues to pour in much research and development into this project because of its obvious great potential. The aim of developing the Centauri is to provide internet connectivity nearly 1,000 times faster than the current speed.
Making global connectivity universally possible
The developers’ of Centauri have a main intention to make a device that can connect to a global satellite network using laser communications, that they intend to launch into space.
Transcelestial co-founder Rohit Jha says working from home at the speed of light is potentially possible with Centauri. However, it “isn’t even scratching the surface of the capability” of laser-linked satellites.
There are “roughly three and a half billion people” , nearly half the world’s population, who have little or no internet connectivity or have “very basic 2G-level phone services”, all of whom can benefit and connect to the rest of the world with Centauri.
Jha explains to the programme Why It Matters “All you have to do is position a satellite above (them), drop a laser link, and you can power high-bandwidth internet to everyone.”
Transcelestial continues to put in a lot of research and development for its global space network. They target a roll-out by the end of 2024.
Race is on for world connectivity
Transcelestial is not alone in this aim for world connectivity. In Singapore’s fast growing space industry, there are over 30 firms that employ over 1,000 people in the race for world connectivity.
The nation has been given a larger stake in the space race than what many people may think. This is due to the emphasis the government places on developing space technology.
The global space sector has received US$135 billion (S$183 billion) worth of investments overall since 2004. Though seen as a little Red Dot in the world, Singapore accounts for 7 percent of the global share of this massive sum.
According to Morgan Stanley, it is estimated that the global space industry could create potential revenue of US$1.1 trillion by 2040. The race is on for a piece of this pie, though Singapore’s venture into the global space industry is a step further as it could also help to solve world connectivity problems as well.
Going into the global space industry also opens up avenues to space travel via missions to the Moon and beyond for cash-rich space superpowers and private companies.
Jonathan Hung, Singapore Space and Technology Association president, thinks that this isn’t the kind of breakthrough Singapore needs though.
One vital point of consideration is land size. For the Kennedy Space Centre in the U.S. where all space missions are launched, size isn’t a concern. This space centre has a site size equivalent to 80 percent of Singapore’s land area.
“We’ve got to pick and choose what we want to do. Right now, Singapore’s play is very much within the satellite domain. Now, satellites can do quite a lot. Specifically, we cover telecommunications. We also cover advanced navigation,” says Hung.
He believes that some of the “low-hanging fruit” shouldn’t be overlooked. “There are good jobs. We can create … advanced manufacturing activities. All these things will help regenerate and spur the economy on.”
The need for global satellites
One fact to take note of is apps like ride-hailing services and Google Maps can’t function without satellites providing location tracking. As such, over 2,500 satellites are orbiting the earth as we speak. According to experts, more satellites are expected in the very near future.
These 2,500 satellites are as far as 35,000 kilometres away from the earth’s orbit. This is the distance for orbital altitude of geosynchronous satellites that transmit television and other signals to the ground. Aside from that, there are satellites orbiting at lower levels as well.
Low level satellites
Transcelestial is a good example for this. They plan to put launch their satellites at around 1,000 km above ground. According to Jha, this is the very reason why signals are faster as it takes “less than five milliseconds” instead of a delay of “almost a second” for a signal to reach the ground.
Particularly for Singapore, its satellite technology could lead to cheaper and a faster roll-out of 5G technology.
Jha explains that “If you’re building fibre networks, a kilometre of fibre is roughly around US$100,000 to US$150,000 … Our device usually comes in at one-tenth of that price.”
The Red Dot made its presence in the sky in 2015
The first commercially remote sensing made-in-Singapore satellite was TeLEOS1, manufactured by Singapore Technologies (ST) Electronics and launched in 2015.
12th October 2020 22:30