MiSI welcomes merger but wary of the fate of local space initiatives in the era of new space

By Sathesh Raj


The Malaysia Space Initiative (MiSI) welcomes the merger between two space-related entities in Malaysia, the National Space Agency (ANGKASA) and the Malaysian Remote Sensing Agency (MRSA), to form one combined space entity known as the Malaysia Space Agency (MYSA).  

While the official launch of MYSA is expected to take place later this year, MiSI noted, “We support the decision made by the government considering the merger and will initiate discussion and research.”

The decision to merge both ANGKASA and MRSA into one entity was made to ensure the governance of the space sector is both effective and efficient through the optimization of all available resources and facilities.  The formation of MYSA is also understandably the first few steps undertaken by the Malaysian government to implement the country’s 2030 National Space Policy, where the first thrust of the policy is to strengthen governance in the space sector.

“ANGKASA focuses on upstream work, whereas MRSA focuses on the downstream. Merging these two agencies will optimize the use of existing resources and facilities at ANGKASA and MRSA, and minimize the overlapping functions and agency roles. At the same time, this will enhance the efficiency of delivering government services in the space sector, ” said Yeo Bee Yin, the Malaysian Minister of Environment, Science, Technology, Energy and Climate Change in a press conference earlier in March this year.

Not in pursuit of sci-fi realities

While the merger is expected to bring about positive developments, MiSI is also wary of the fate of the local space initiatives in the country.

“The merging of the agencies could get them to combine their expertise from both sectors and innovate by understanding the different stakeholder needs. However, we hope it will not dilute the efforts towards strengthening local space initiatives and advancing the core space industry, whether under the Government or private sector,” said MiSI. This is because as a developing country, in line with the second thrust of the policy (Focus on Space Technology, Infrastructure and Applications Significant to the Country), Yeo speaking to the press at MRSA said the primary focus of its space sector is not in the pursuit of sci-fi realities. When we talk about space, many immediately think only about astronauts, rockets and sending people to the moon, however, that’s not what the space sector is all about, she added.

“We are a developing country and because we have very limited resources, our focus must be right, so all actions we take must bring about direct positive impact to the economy. With this, Malaysia’s main focus is not in the pursuits of sci-fi movies, but is on the efforts to empower ownership of satellite-based data and information primarily in the three main areas of remote sensing, communication and navigation,” Yeo emphasized at the press conference.

Remote sensing for the fisheries sector (and beyond)

Remote sensing application in the fisheries sector has helped benefit the fisherfolk and the country. It has been reported in Digital News Asia that according to the fisheries department data in 2015, the higher yield from fishing through the data supplied by MRSA helped the country reduce its fish imports by MYR 350 million (approximately US$ 85.5 million). MRSA has helped to provide freely available data from low-res US satellites to fishermen whose boats were equipped with GPS, echo sounders and sonars to help them locate where upwelling occurs (area where deeper, colder, nutrient-rich water rises to the surface and these surface waters often have high biological productivity, hence are good fishing grounds).

Yeo believes the government’s focus with the formation of MYSA in areas of remote sensing, communication and navigation could further help not only the fishermen and farmers but the overall social, economic and safety aspects of the country. She furthermore emphasized the need to expand the use of satellite data in government and find ways to model the data to be used in different applications or government sectors with the overall aim to improve efficiency in the government services.

Preparing Malaysia for the final frontier

However, MiSI believes the government can do much better in terms of prepping Malaysia as a key player in this new space era driven by private industries.  

“We are very slow at understanding the vast potential of new space and how quickly the market is growing out there. For the business model of new space to flourish, the space policy needs to be advanced. The government should take the effort to prepare Malaysia as a player in the new space era by having the space policy that supports this type of growth which is yet to be established,” stressed MiSI.

While successes of some start-up companies in the downstream segment such as Katsana are promising for the future of Malaysia’s space sector, it is still largely in its infancy and there is a need for drivers from the companies in the upstream which is lacking here, said MiSI, who believes the government still needs to play a major role in setting up the “roadwork” to ensure the sustainability of some local space companies in the long run.

The Malaysia Space Initiative (MiSI) is an NGO and non-profit organisation dedicated to advance Malaysia’s space sector and is led by former SGAC member Dr. Norilmi and team: Dr. Siti Harwani, Dr. Salahuddin (SGAC member), Mr. David (SGAC Malaysia NPoC) and Mr. Aqeel.



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