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HKUST Revolutionising Environmental Research

Image Credits: HKUST, Press Release
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In a significant update on a previous OpenGov Asia article, HKUST’s new satellite promises groundbreaking advancements in environmental research, remote sensing, and disaster prediction, transforming the way we monitor our planet.

The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) successfully launched the high-resolution optical satellite named “HKUST-FYBB#1”. This achievement marked the commencement of a collaborative effort between HKUST, and a satellite technology company aimed at advancing scientific research through space technology.

The launch of HKUST-FYBB#1 into its designated orbit at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Gansu Province on 25 August 2023 was a significant moment. The satellite’s primary purpose is to gather environmental monitoring remote sensing data from space, setting the stage for groundbreaking advancements in the realm of technology and innovation.

What makes this venture particularly exciting is the shared vision of HKUST and the tech company to establish a multimodal remote sensing satellite constellation. This constellation will serve as the cornerstone for the development of an extensive environmental monitoring and disaster forecasting system, with far-reaching implications for the fields of technology and innovation.

The ceremony drew esteemed guests, including the Secretary General of the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (CLO), and the Deputy Commissioner of the Commissioner’s Office of China’s Foreign Ministry in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR). Their presence underscored the importance of this collaboration in the world of technology and innovation.

Over 400 faculty members and students from HKUST, as well as visitors from the wider community, gathered at the Shaw Auditorium to witness this historic satellite launch. Among them were approximately 30 pupils and parents from PLK Yip Ng Bun Bun Kindergarten and PLK Yip Ng Bun Bun Queen’s Hill Kindergarten. The highlight of the event was the screening of a video showcasing the successful launch of “HKUST-FYBB#1,” which garnered enthusiastic applause from the audience. Notably, over 7500 people also virtually joined the event, highlighting the widespread interest and excitement surrounding this technological achievement.

During the ceremony, a telephone discussion was had with key members of the HKUST team involved in the satellite project. These included Prof. SU Hui, a Global STEM Professor leading the remote sensing technology research team, Prof. YU Hongyu, an Associate Professor at HKUST’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, and a student actively participating in the project.

The panel discussion focused on HKUST’s advancements in remote sensing satellite technology and the potential contributions of the satellite constellation program to regional environmental monitoring and disaster management. The engagement of students in the discussion was particularly noteworthy, demonstrating their keen interest in technology and innovation.

HKUST plans to establish an interdisciplinary research team to collaborate with the company, which is the first commercial remote sensing satellite company in Mainland China, to advance satellite remote sensing technology. In addition to the four HKUST students who participated in the satellite launch, the team intends to recruit more local and non-local students and researchers with diverse professional expertise. Their involvement will span various research activities, including satellite design, payload manufacturing, pre-launch testing, in-orbit operation and control, data analysis, and product development for applications.

To nurture interest and knowledge in the aerospace field among young individuals, HKUST will introduce two courses in the upcoming academic year: “Applications of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Remote Sensing” and “Monitoring Changing Climate from Space.” These courses aim to provide students with insights into common AI techniques in satellite remote sensing, encouraging innovation and exploration in the technology and innovation sector.

Furthermore, the University plans to organise lectures, summer camps on satellite technology, and collaborate with relevant companies to offer internship opportunities for students. These initiatives are designed to expose individuals of varying backgrounds and ages to satellite remote-sensing technology while expanding the frontiers of teaching, research, and talent development in technology and innovation.

With the successful deployment of “HKUST-FYBB#1,” it can join forces with the tech firm’s existing satellites to provide real-time imagery and remote sensing data not only for Hong Kong but also for the global community. The HKUST research team will harness this data for analysis and application in fields such as disaster management, smart city development, and sustainable resource management.

Looking ahead, the team aims to collaborate with Chang Guang to develop key satellite technologies, including those related to carbon emission detection and monitoring. These developments will contribute significantly to disaster management, environmental monitoring, and carbon neutrality efforts.

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