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NTU’s ELITE Satellite to Enhance Singapore’s Space Capabilities

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Nanyang Technological University (NTU Singapore) unveiled the final test model of its cutting-edge satellite, marking a significant stride in enhancing Singapore’s prowess in space technology. Named Extremely Low Earth Imaging Technology Explorer (ELITE), this advanced satellite, slated for completion by 2025, serves as a pivotal testbed for innovative technologies developed in collaboration with local firm LightHaus Photonics and NTU deep tech spin-off Aliena.

Image credits: Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

ELITE represents NTU’s 14th satellite and its largest and most intricate to date, supported by Singapore’s Office for Space Technology & Industry (OSTin). The collaboration was initially announced at the 2022 Global Space and Technology Convention, aiming to validate pioneering satellite technologies.

This initiative not only positions Singapore’s space technology sector to tap into the lucrative US$433 billion international space technology market but also promises significant socio-economic benefits for the nation.

Operating in Very Low Earth Orbit (VLEO), approximately 250 kilometres above Earth’s surface, ELITE will explore and study unique conditions that could advance scientific understanding of space phenomena and Earth’s environment.

During his visit to NTU’s Satellite Research Centre, President Tharman Shanmugaratnam was briefed on ELITE’s advanced technologies. NTU President Professor Ho Teck Hua and OSTin Board Chairman Mr Peter Ho welcomed President Tharman, who engaged with NTU scientists, academics, and key figures from Singapore’s space industry, underscoring the strategic importance of this endeavour.

“NTU’s deep expertise in artificial intelligence, data science, and various engineering fields has enabled our faculty to venture into space exploration,” remarked Prof. Ho. “ELITE integrates state-of-the-art innovations from Singaporean firms, showcasing how advanced satellite technologies can benefit humanity sustainably and cost-effectively.”

Executive Director of OSTIn, Mr Jonathan Hung, emphasised the collaborative effort facilitated by the ELITE project, which has strengthened Singapore’s space technology capabilities and provided invaluable learning opportunities for students and youths passionate about STEM fields.

More than 20 NTU students actively contributed to the ELITE project, representing a growing cohort of Singaporean youth engaged in STEM initiatives related to space technology. These students, from secondary schools, junior colleges, polytechnics, and universities, were involved in multidisciplinary experiments and innovations, fostering their interest in science and engineering.

ELITE’s technological innovations include its compact size – weighing 180 kilograms and measuring 129cm x 70cm x 73cm, akin to a small fridge – and its operational focus on VLEO. Operating at lower altitudes presents challenges such as aerodynamic drag from residual atmospheric traces, mitigated by ELITE’s innovative MUlti-Stage Ignition Compact (MUSIC) electric propulsion system developed by Aliena.

Furthermore, NTU Temasek Laboratories contributes with a sensor to study atomic oxygen (ATOX) effects and an ultrathin, optically transparent nanotechnology coating to protect ELITE from material degradation in VLEO conditions.

ELITE’s imaging capabilities are enhanced by LightHaus Photonics’ Electro-Optical Camera (LEOCAM), featuring a Three-Mirror Anastigmat (TMA) telescope design for higher-resolution Earth imaging.

The satellite also pioneers a locally developed aerodynamics prediction model and tri-fold solar panels designed for optimal performance in VLEO.

Currently undergoing the Engineering Qualification Model (EQM) phase at Thailand’s Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency (GISTDA), ELITE has successfully passed rigorous environmental tests, including vibration and thermal vacuum conditions. Upon completion of the EQM phase, the team will proceed with the Flight Model (FM), which will be launched into space.

NTU Singapore continues to spearhead advancements in space technology through strategic partnerships and innovative research, showcasing the nation’s capabilities on a global stage. This initiative aligns with NTU’s commitment to advancing knowledge and sustainable development through cutting-edge technology and collaborative efforts.

NTU Singapore is a leading research-intensive public university in diverse fields. Its Smart Campus initiative integrates digital technology to enhance learning, discovery, and sustainability. The university hosts renowned institutes and research centres, fostering innovation in education and research.


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