They say, “The sky is the limit.” However, emerging space tech startups in Southeast Asia are crashing through the boundaries and gaining their spot in space beside other international giants. As the world dives deeper into the digital era, more doors are opening for ASEAN tech startups wanting to explore space’s possibilities.
Singapore has become the focal point and most fertile ground regionally for spacetech startups to grow and develop satellite platforms that contribute to advancing the global communication system and blockchain. The space industry has attracted the attention of domestic and foreign investors who acknowledge the potential of a more decentralised, futuristic market.
Spacetech is taking off in Southeast Asia
We take a look at the following five companies, all based in Singapore, leading the way for spacetech in Asia.
2019 was a paramount year for funding and partnerships between space tech companies, capital venture firms and the telecommunication industry. They sought an enhancement to their resources, technologies and expansion in their products and services.
David Mitlying, COO of SpeQtral, stated that the space tech funding reached $5 billion USD across 30 companies in the space industry that year. SpeQtral received $1.9 million USD in seed funding, mainly from Space Capital and others, like Shasta Ventures, Golden Gate Ventures and SG Innovate.
SpeQtral is working on the next nano-satellite mission, due for launch in 2022 and developing security technology for communication systems to protect networks from eavesdropping. Another project, in partnership with Israel’s QuantLR, is the Secure Quantum Node, which connects two points on Earth.
Another emerging space tech startup is NuSpace. Their product is a nano-satellite technology, which impulses IoT connectivity through a network infrastructure. In 2019, venture capital firm BEENEXT invested in NuSpace’s nano-satellite project. They believe these nano-satellites will be great tools for government agencies and businesses. The startup also received around $75 thousand USD in funding from the NUS Graduate Research Innovation Programme.
NuSpace is also in partnership with another spacetech startup, Aliena, to develop a cubesat, to combine Aliena’s ultra-low-power electric propulsion system and NuSpace’s Attitude, Determination and Control System on an autonomous orbit structure.
In 2019, Aliena raised $1.1 million USD in an investment round led by CapVista, a Singapore Defense Science and Technology Agency (DSTA) venture. With the funds, Aliena is expanding its propulsion system for smaller satellites and offering new in-orbit tech products.
Towards the end of 2020, the company signed a partnership deal with the Northern Territory Government in Australia, the Darwin Innovation Hub, Singapore Space & Technology Ltd (SSTL) and its funding partners CapVista to provide innovative solutions for deep tech and space companies in the region.
The spacetech company, Transcelestial, delivers high-speed internet with a wireless laser network in space, and it raised $9.6 million USD in series A funding in 2020. The funding round was co-led by EDBI—a government investment firm—and other investors, such as Airbus Ventures, and CapVista, while also forming partnerships with Telecom Infra Project and Telecom True Innovation.
The aim is to deliver 100 gigabits per second of internet connectivity—much faster than the conventional Internet network—and at a fraction of the usual costs. The company is also developing a constellation of small satellites in low-earth orbit to provide high-speed internet using its product, Centauri, which is the size of a shoebox and weighs less than three kilogrammes.
With its accessible and neutral infrastructure that integrates space and blockchain technologies, SpaceChain is a significant player in the new space economy. Its vision is to offer a new service to promote progressive technology that unlocks the potential of blockchain and the use of space for businesses.
Users can access this network anytime and from anywhere through the world’s first Decentralised Satellite Infrastructural (DSI) shared by multiple parties.
For instance, it sent its highly-secured on-orbit blockchain with Ethereum Multisignature Transaction Services to be installed in the International Space Station (ISS) aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. This is the fourth blockchain payload in space and Ethereum’s first technology integration into its hardware on ISS.
Bringing the Ethereum platform to space and having Nexus Inc. as SpaceChain’s first customer with direct access to this service for its financial operations validates the effectiveness of decentralised satellite infrastructure, according to Zee Zheng, SpaceChain co-founder and CEO.
In 2020, SpaceChain UK received over $600k USD in funding from Eureka GlobalStars-Singapore. Meanwhile, its partners Addvalue Innovation and Glasgow-based Alba Orbital will gain access to research and development facilities and resources, which will boost their operation productivity and impact the blockchain economy.
These emerging private space tech startups are backed up and nourished by regional and international venture capital and other funds and have the Singaporean government as advocates. Thanks to the support of governments, especially in Singapore, as they encourage both investors and the space tech industry to grow and expand in their missions, the future for space tech startups in Southeast Asia seems brighter than ever.