Dr Mustafa Din Bin Subari shares with Geospatial world how space activities can benefit the development activities of the nation and how important it is for them to have their own capabilities and capacities.
Dr Mustafa Din Bin Subari
National Space Agency, Malaysia
Kindly brief us on the mandate of National Space Agency?
National Space Agency is a government agency under the Ministry of Science, Technology & Innovation. Our mandate is to develop the space sector for the country.
Malaysia is currently in the process of developing its national space policy. Can you share with us the objective of the policy?
The policy is an important roadmap for our nation. A good policy will enable the country in becoming a developed nation.
How can space activities benefit the development activities of the nation?
Space in itself is a very strategic and important sector for any nation, and it is important for them to have their own capabilities and capacities. There’s a lot that the space has to offer. This spans from the economic benefits to strategic benefits (defence and military). So I think Malaysia has to really prepare herself to be able to benefit from the space sector.
How do you see space-based technologies furthering the geospatial industry in Malaysia?
There are several space-based technologies that contribute towards geospatial industry. One of them is remote sensing applications. Almost all GIS development programmes rely on satellite imagery. In Malaysia, ever since the early 1980s, we have been utilising satellite imagery for various development purposes. It has been an important basic fundamental data.
The other area is the location-based technology – the GNSS (global navigation satellite system). A lot has changed, for example, in surveying and mapping, since the advent of satellite-based positioning. Malaysia has got quite a number of applications which replace the conventional ways of surveying and mapping. We foresee that in the near future the satellite technology will take over entire surveying, mapping and positioning practices.
For a country to really become independent and ensure the guarantee of use of this technology, it is important for the country to really establish its own capacity in this area.
How can the national space policy benefit the geospatial industry?
There are specifically two aspects to the policy that can benefit the geospatial industry. One is the national satellite programme. We are currently developing our own remote sensing satellites and we hope to be able to provide sufficient infrastructure in terms of satellite platforms that can serve the needs of the geospatial applications in Malaysia.
The other area is the satellite navigation-related infrastructure. We will not probably be building our own GNSS, but we are very keen to have participation in the regional augmentation systems such as WAAS or GAGAN. This would certainly assist in the way forward for the country in capacity building in assuring that the necessary infrastructure is in place for the geospatial industry to further grow.
When is the policy likely to be implemented?
It is likely to be implemented towards the middle of this year, 2012.
In addition to developing the upstream sector, National Space Agency is also developing the downstream sector. Kindly elaborate on some initiatives in this sector?
We are actually concentrating more on the downstream industry applications. This industry is of considerable size in Malaysia. There are a lot of players, albeit they are just SMEs (small and medium enterprises). But unfortunately we have left them on their own. Up to now, there have been no systematic programmes or assistance to ensure that they will grow and contribute back to the economy of the country.
A lot of these companies have their business centred around satellite imagery – availability, processing, analysing of imagery, etc. Within the satellite navigation, there are a lot of companies that provide location-based services – for example, tracking goods and even people. Then there are activities like utilities mapping and surveying. Unfortunately, these companies have not been identified as contributors to space economy. Because there is no consortium for them, strategies or incentives that can benefit them therefore do not come their way. These are the things we want to focus on in the next few years and bring to the forefront through the policy implementations.
What are the plans for RazakSat-2?
We have started work on the development of RazakSat-2, the second remote sensing satellite. We hope that by the end of 2015 we are able to launch and operate the satellite. We also have plans to develop communication satellite for the government and public services.