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ANGKASA-X Group of Companies recently became the first Penang-based Malaysian company to be admitted as an ITU-R member of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), a specialised agency of the United Nations which manages space telecommunications.

In April this year, a tripartite Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between Angkasa-X, USM and Digital Penang with the objective of developing and launching Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites and deploy LEO satellite constellations over ASEAN region.

Their ambition is to address connectivity issues given the vast rural geography deprived of Internet coverage and affordable access.

Since then, Angkasa-X, a space tech startup, has made significant strides in preparing for their launch of their first LEO satellite in 2022.

Angkasa-X, in conjunction with School of Aerospace Engineering, USM is in the process of setting up in Nibong Tebal campus, a research & development laboratory including assembly, integration, and testing centre (AIT) facilities for the purpose of researching and development of “Designed in Malaysia” LEO satellites.

Angkasa-X executive chairman Dr Sean Seah said with the ITU-R membership, Angkasa-X is eligible to apply in securing orbital slots and radio spectrum to launch the satellites.

In a recent statement, state government-linked company Digital Penang said Angkasa-X has plans to develop a Space Tech Ecosystem in Penang nurturing the next generation talent pool and developing an Asian satellite technology supply-chain ecosystem by invitation and partnership with more global satellite technology providers.

It added that one of the key themes of Penang’s Digital Transformation Masterplan is the search for the next economic sector, that builds on the current advantage in high tech manufacturing and engineering prowess.

“With increasing competition from neighbouring states and countries entering into the high-tech manufacturing space, the quest for the next adjacent sector is a strategic priority as competing on land and labour is no longer sustainable.

“The race to space, especially by the leading and advanced countries, is evident and timely for Penang to step up our game to take the lead and ride on global trends,” it added.

Angkasa-X has established a partnership with Silkwave Holdings Limited (Silkwave), a dedicated mobile multimedia infotainment and application provider that currently operates two geostationary (GEO) satellites.

This partnership will bring a GEO-LEO integrated satellite network and services platform in Penang to provide mobile infotainment content across ASEAN region.

An ambitious venture such as this needs serious funding. On this front, Angkasa-X has recently signed with Bank of Asia (BOA) to set up a space technology fund to raise capital for the development and rollout of this venture focused on space technology.