Insights on Singapore’s Rising Space Industry

By Stella Soon

Advisory hosted Discover: Space on 16 June 2019, bringing together professionals in Singapore’s space industry to share about their career journeys and the opportunities available in this fast-growing industry.

The event kicked off with the Young Professionals Panel, comprising of:

  • Mr David Ho (Singapore Space and Technology Association (SSTA) executive committee member)
  • Ms Faith Tng (Space Generation Advisory Council (SGAC), Singapore national point of contact, and Astropreneurs HUB media & communications officer)
  • Mr Simon Gwozdz (Equatorial Space Industries (ESI) CEO & founder)
  • Mr Chia Lih Wei (AstropreneursHUB, co-founder, and TinyMOS, co-founder)

Following a series of breakout sessions with these young professionals, industry veterans Mr Lim Seng and Dr Liew Soo Chin shared their insights in the Senior Professionals Panel. Mr Lim is the founder and managing director of IN.Genius and Singapore Astronautics. Hailing from the National University of Singapore (NUS), Dr Liew is Principal Research Scientist and Head of Research at the Centre for Remote Imaging, Sensing, and Processing.

Here are 5 nuggets of information the space industry professionals shared:

All roads lead to space. People from non-technical disciplines, like businessmen, architects, and lawyers, are needed in the space industry too. 

Businessmen can innovate ways to make space less expensive. The architects know how to design houses on outer space habitats, while lawyers can use their gift of the gab to navigate space law. 

P.S. If you’re a tech person searching for a pot of gold in the space industry, look towards satellite data analysis, building, and launching. It’s where the dough – and most job opportunities – lie.

Volunteering for space-related organisations is one way to dip your toes into the industry and build connections. Three of the four young professionals started their space careers that way.

Volunteering with space companies in administrative and logistical roles on an ad hoc basis could also pave the way for your entry into the company’s core team.

Even with no education or work experience in the space industry, you can take up internship positions with players in the field. The scope of work available in this field is broad and the likes of organising events for students and professionals interested in space is where volunteers can already, and should, add value to the industry.

While you can watch Youtube videos to learn about space independently, talking to people in the industry helps you understand its inner workings. Connecting with fellow space professionals is important.

Space technology has the potential to solve problems on Earth. And we’re talking about some of today’s most pressing issues, like global warming and haze detection. 

For instance, space missions can be sent 10-50km above ground to spray biodegradable particles in the atmosphere. These particles block and control the greenhouse effect – meaning a cooler Earth. 

Satellites come in handy to produce overall pictures during ground mapping. During the 1997 Indonesian forest fires, satellite images helped Dr Liew and his team identify smoke columns, to nail down the origins of haze and fire. Today, they still work with the National Environment Agency to detect fires around the region.

Satellites are getting smaller. They can be as small as a shoebox, yet have more functions than larger, pricier ones. Such new technology has reduced the barriers of access to space. Within half a century, anyone will be able to do space research. 

You don’t need to be a billionaire, nor as large as NASA. What you do need is to start doing something. Don’t be afraid to get involved in space.

Seek out venture capitalists to secure funding for pricier space projects – they’re slowly warming up to the idea of investing in space. A well-designed sponsorship kit is key to this. Ask yourself: what can your initiative value-add to sponsors? Then answer that question in your pitch.

If you’re launching a student initiative, approaching ESI for monetary support is one option. So is applying for grants – what Mr Gwozdz dubbed “equity-free money”.

Alternatively, sign up for competitions. Mr Gwozdz and his team did just that, won first prize, and bagged USD$30,000 to fund the initial stages of their space start-up.