TECHNOLOGY

Why This Thai Space Tech Start-up Wants to Explore The Final Frontier

mu Space could be the first in Asia to offer space tourism

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BY Marishka M. Cabrera - 05 Jul 2018

Why This Thai Space Tech Start-up Wants to Explore The Final Frontier

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

As national space agencies and large private companies—as in Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin—dominate the conversation in the world of space tech, smaller players from Southeast Asia want to get in on the action.

After all, the space tech industry is expected to be worth more than $1.1 trillion by 2040 from its current $350 billion, Morgan Stanley predicts.

But for James Yenbamroong, founder and CEO of Thai start-up mu Space, it’s more than sending rich tourists (a return ticket for one passenger on Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic can cost several hundreds of thousands of dollars) into space for a thrilling ride. It is about helping poorer folks back on earth.  

James laments that despite increased availability of broadband in cities, many people living in rural areas are “not reaching their full potential because they’re unable to access the technology.” He explains that while the Thai government is implementing a project to provide broadband connectivity to 4,000 remote villages, many are too far flung to be within reach of digital infrastructures. 

For him, the ideal solution would be through the use of a communication satellite. At the moment, he says mu Space delivers “reliable satellite-based broadband” for telcos and private businesses in an effort to help the Thai government’s nationwide digital transformation initiatives.

This year, the company is looking to provide connectivity service to five other Southeast Asian countries: Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Vietnam.     

James has always been enraptured by technology. After studying aerospace and mechanical engineering at the University of California, Los Angeles, James worked for American aerospace and defense company Northrop Grumman as a project lead for unmanned vehicle systems. There he was involved in technical and budget planning and system production and analysis. After years of working in the U.S., he decided to go back to Thailand where he founded mu Space in 2017.

“I have an inner passion of using technology to improve the quality of life,” James says. “Founding mu Space gave me an opportunity to prove that passion.”

According to reports, mu Space plans to raise over $9.2 million in 2018 to fund its business development and expansion.

Own satellite by 2020

James says they plan to launch their own satellite in 2020. At present, the company is working on a “low latency, high throughput satellite on a geostationary orbit (GEO)” located at 50.5-degree East. It is expected to provide communication across Asia Pacific and will have a lifespan on at least 15 years.

But the company isn’t stopping there. mu Space wants to extend its business to other space-related activities, such as space tourism, within the next decade. He says that while the likes of Blue Origin, SpaceX, and Virgin Galactic are leading the pack in space tourism, not one is based in Asia.

“I want mu Space to be the first in Asia,” James says. “We plan to join the space race by launching a satellite and offering space tourism to people in Asia-Pacific.”

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