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Thailand Mulls Military Space Options, Imaging Satellite Lease

Photograph of Bangkok-Rayong in Thailand taken at night from the International Space Station on 13 December 2010. Photograph courtesy of NASA.

The Thai Ministry of Defence (MoD) is to take on national security space missions, and incorporate military space concepts of operations and their associated threats and opportunities in its defence strategy, operations, tactics, techniques, and procedures.

According to Thai media reports, the MoD in Bangkok is considering options that include the leasing of an Earth observation satellite from a U.S.-based company and the introduction of space principles, operations, and concepts of operations throughout all Thai defence-related training and education in order to create a space savvy military.

The Thai MoD is looking to spend approximately 2 billion Baht (approximately U.S.$6.24 million) a year over fifteen years on the lease of a high-resolution Earth observation satellite that could be operational by 2021, according to reports.

MoD spokesperson, Lt. Gen. Khongcheep Tantrawanich, said that the satellite would also be shared with other Thai government ministries and agencies, but noted that, “The satellite would, however, primarily have a ‘channel’ for security affairs.”

The comment came after a meeting at the MoD on 30 May 2018 of the Thai Defence Council, chaired by Defence Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon, and attended by senior military officers and civil servants, where a proposed national defence space strategic plan to 2027 was considered. General Prawit also tasked the Office of the Permanent Secretary of Defence with assessing space threats and their potential impact on Thai national security interests.

Additionally, the MoD has been authorised to establish local and international linkages in the space sector in order to increase the human and technical capacity of Thai personnel in space issues.

“Right now, we are developing human resources [for satellite technology],” said. Lt. Gen. Khongcheep.

According to Thai media sources, the Thai Defence Council also ordered that that Defence Technology Institute (DTI), along with the MoD’s space and cyber units, assess the THEIA satellite sharing proposal.

Offered by Theia Holdings, headquartered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the United States, the satellite would be shared with approximately four other countries on a leasing or co-investment basis. While details of THEIA system are scarce, it is understood to consist of a 112 constellation of high-resolution Earth observation and communications satellites.

At present the Thai MoD leases a channel on a Thaicom satellite for much of its national security needs, but this is expected to end in 2021.

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