The Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) is ready to enter the space race with plans to launch its first satellite. Data from the orbiter will help in cracking down on pollution, fighting wildfires, and contribute to research, as well as national defense. The scheduled launch last week of the satellite, named Napa-1, from a site in French Guiana, was postponed, however, because the coronavirus pandemic forced the site to shut down temporarily. The Royal Thai Air Force said it would most likely be launched in the next few months, followed by Napa-2 in July.
While this satellite will be the first one for the Air Force, Thailand is not a new entrant in space. The Kingdom has a private-sector company, Thaicom, which has had several communications satellites in orbit since it was founded in 1991. Air Vice-Marshal Supijjarn Thamwatharsaree, Chief of the newly established RTAF-based Space Operation Center (SPOC), said Napa-1 would help in tackling national disasters, such as the wildfires in northern provinces. The Royal Thai Air Force plan is to have many satellites for many different missions
With an eye on the future, Space Operation Center (SPOC) is recruiting and expanding a new special unit it refers to as “Jedi” after the Star Wars characters. The Jedi will be composed of about 80 SPOC personnel – scientists, technicians, and researchers – who will lay the groundwork for the agency to start building more satellites. These officials, including a number of space experts with doctorate degrees, have already saved the Air Force tens of millions of baht with the software they were able to develop in-house.