To infinity and beyond / Thai startup plans to jet tourists into space

By: Janelle Retka - Posted on: December 13, 2018 | Business

Last December, Thailand-based communications technology company mu Space was the country’s first startup to land a satellite operator license. A year on, its founder and CEO, James Yenbamroong, shares his imminent plans to launch into space

James Yenbamroong_mu Space_Thailand_space_Virgin Galactic_Space X_Southeast Asia_spacesuit_tourism_Internet of Things_IoT Institute_Southeast Asia Globe 2018
The founder and CEO of mu Space hope to attracts Southeast Asian space tourists with his bold new venture

Tell us about mu Space’s goal to eventually provide a space tourism service…
Travelling to space is one of our greatest dreams in life. Most of the time, however, it’s exclusive to astronauts. It was not until recently when private individuals, mostly from the US, were able to fly to space… The service that mu Space is going to offer will have a similar concept with what US-based companies like Virgin Galactic and Space X are planning to provide. In the early stage of the service, we plan to send individuals to space and, after a few minutes, they’ll return back to Earth… What makes mu Space unique is our target customers: private citizens from Southeast Asia. We want to be the first in the region to offer space tourism.

What does space tourism mean for Southeast Asian tourism?
We have our head office in Thailand, which is just perfect for this company because the country is a famous tourism destination worldwide. But, I think space tourism will not really affect the tourism in Southeast Asia, which caters more to the masses. Space tourism is expensive. Currently, only those who have the money and the passion to explore space can afford it. But in the future, we hope the service will be available to more people as reusable rockets become more common and will help lower the cost of flying to space.

You recently unveiled your own “futuristic and sleek” spacesuit. How does this item help get your company closer to your planned 2021 commercial space launch?
Travelling to space can be dangerous. In space, the temperature can be freezing cold and there is a risk of exposure to radiation. Therefore, before sending space tourists, we have to develop a spacesuit that can ensure their safety up there. The spacesuit will be initially worn by our space tourism clients, but we’re also thinking to make the spacesuit more advanced so future astronauts can use it. For this version of the spacesuit, we’re going to include features like a helmet visor with a head-up display, a touch-screen wrist display and an embedded exoskeleton for better mobility in space.

In the meantime, tell us about your plans to help develop Internet of Things (IoT) technology in Thailand…
We’re planning to develop a smart apparel that can collect health data. We envision the apparel [gathering] vital health information of a person, like a body’s temperature, oxygen level, pulse rate and blood pressure, and have the data shared online with people, systems and apps. Imagine a world in which the thing that you’re wearing tells you about your health, shares your information via the web to a health professional without going to a hospital and then has your diagnosis report ready in a few minutes. For the smart apparel, we’ll carry out research and tests at the IoT Institute, which the Thai government has set up. The institute will be completed in 2020.

This article was published in the December 2018 edition of Southeast Asia Globe magazine. To subscribe to our newsletter, click here.