We don’t hear a lot of news about the space industry in Singapore. What more a spacetech company? Even though Singapore isn’t a popular location for the space industry, there is an increasing number of spacetech startups here and it includes companies building low-cost rockets to tech teams innovating in telecommunications, blockchain tech, and more.
Furthermore, the Singapore government is has recently become more interested about the sector as local and foreign companies in the spacetech industry are getting support from the Economic Development Board and SPRING Singapore. Also, SGInnovate invests in deep-tech startups and frequently organizes spacetech-related events that draw in founders and investors too. (Source: Tech In Asia)
Despite Singapore being geographically unsuitable to host space launches, Dr. Bidushi Bhattacharya, a former NASA rocket scientist, told The Straits Times that the island is home to a wealth of entrepreneurial talent who can develop “sub-system innovations” that help companies like SpaceX develop rockets and satellites. She believes that Singapore is particularly advantageous for spacetech entrepreneurs and researchers because of its hospitable business environment. Thus, she established Bhattacharya Space Enterprises (BSE) in Singapore.
How it started
Her interest with space began when she was 10 years old, and she still recalls watching the moon landing with her family. She said in an interview, “What really got me wasn’t just the images of the sky but the data they sent down with those images.”
It was in that moment that sparked a lifelong passion in Bhattacharya, who went on to become a rocket scientist and worked for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab and the California Institute of Technology. (Source: Forbes)
After about 25 years in the space industry, Dr. Bhattacharya set up two start-ups in Singapore after her family moved here, when her husband was offered the position of director at the Teaching and Learning Centre in Yale-NUS. In April 2015, she officially set up Bhattacharya Space Enterprises (BSE) to educate and train aspiring space leaders here. She founded it to advance her vision of a thriving hub for sub-system innovations and satellite development. In addition, she believes that Singapore is well-suited to develop ancillary systems for companies such as SpaceX.
Bhattacharya Space Enterprise (BSE)
BSE is currently fostering a spacetech ecosystem through science projects, training workshops, and community building. She shared in an interview that she wants BSE to launch an incubator that will not only help spacetech startups secure funding and mentorship but get their technology “flight-ready” for use in space.
According to their website, BSE trains space technologist at all levels, from young, passionate students to inspired college graduates and working professionals. They offer the basic fundamentals of space tech, with a unique opportunity to launch experiments or CubeSat into space. They will equip the aspiring space technologists with skills needed to build and innovate thought your own space missions to become a space expert.
They also offer unprecedented access to outer space and aims to increase technical capacity at all levels through education, training and launch opportunities using “CubeSatellites,” a hugely disruptive technology. Their team of experts has 33 years of combined experience building, launching, and operating satellites in Singapore, with NASA and with ESA. (Source: BSE)
In their efforts to help students and young scientists get their experiments on board the International Space Station (ISS), they have conducted projects such as the study of the effects of microgravity. One recent project examined the impact of space radiation on melanin in genetically modified bacteria.
Apart from BSE, she also started Astropreneurs Hub, an incubator aiming to help spacetech startups get off the ground and launch their prototypes – to make them more attractive to investors. Similar to other startup sectors, she believes that community building is important, and she is optimistic about the local scene. Thus, she organises “Astropreneur Meetups” for professionals and students that has an interest in the space industry to discuss current and future trends in spacetech. These meetups bring together enthusiasts, entrepreneurs, and funders to build the local spacetech ecosystem. She acknowledges that although many of the enthusiasts do not have traditional training in astrophysics and space engineering, they are bright and have good ideas, and she and her company is working to connect them with experts who can get their products into orbit. Hence, she believes that Singapore’s spacetech astropreneurs can make significant contributions to research and product development by partnering with major global space companies.
Since the spacetech is a relatively new industry, it faces several challenges such as finding talents for the workforce and funding. Since talent in this field is difficult to find, she uses her meetups and other recruitment strategies to bring people in. In terms of funding, investors are more cautious with space startups because they take longer to build a functioning product compared to software companies. However, since both problems are interconnected – only when there is funding, people will see that there are opportunities available and only then, they will be willing to come on board.
However, she is optimistic in the asian market as she believes that what Asia can provide is a huge highly skilled workforce in the long run since nobody has actually tapped on Asia for global space. (Source: The Straits Times)
Dr. Bidushi Bhattacharya has delved into an industry that may sound a little exotic too some, but she has hopes for the spacetech scene to continue to grow in Singapore and establish the democratisation of space by selling her affordable “Cubesats”, which are palm-sized satellites, to anybody who can afford a car in Singapore since they can build it and launch it for a quarter of a million dollars. She is also thinking about what they can offer on an online platform that will serve educational institutions and people who have startups that want to see what one of these looks like. The “Cubesats” are essentially a camera that can be replaced with any sensors. They want to sell the cameras, some software and scale up to provide a space-flight simulator. Their end goal is to provide people with the view from this camera as it is simulating a flight through space.
If you’re interested to hear more stories from fellow entrepreneurs and know more about business strategies and issues that many SMEs face, follow the H.E.R Entrepreneur Facebook page. We post weekly articles on a variety of business related topics, and it’s all completely free.
If there’s a particular topic that you’d like us to talk about, please feel free to leave a comment!