Small Remote Sensing Satellites of Malaysia: Past Experience and Future Direction
Keywords:Small satellites, TiungSAT-1, RazakSAT™, Remote sensing Malaysia
Small remote sensing satellites offer cost-effective ways to monitor and map the Earth. The low cost involved in developing and launching small satellites allowed developing countries like Malaysia to own small satellites. Malaysia launched two small satellites (TiungSAT-1 and RazakSATTM) in 2000 and 2009, respectively. The satellites captured several hundred scenes before their operation ended unexpectedly due to electrical power problems and onboard computer malfunction. The government undertook various efforts to rectify the technical issues related to the remote sensing digital data and explore the potential applications of the datasets. However, no synthesis documents are available on the potential applications of the data by considering the satellites’ launch and image acquisition capabilities. A review of the small satellites’ technical competencies and possible applications is critical in designing future satellites. This review article aims to synthesize available literature on the potential application of Malaysia’s small satellites. The review results show that both satellites have a high potential for earth resources evaluation and planning. However, the coarse spatial resolution and limited spectral bands of TiungSAT may have limited applications. RazakSAT™ data, on the other hand, are proven helpful in land use and utility planning in cities. Unfortunately, the multi-temporal data of RazakSAT™ were not processed to study environmental disasters such as floods or landslides in cities. Like TiungSAT-1, RazakSAT™ images have only four spectral bands that may limit their application for land cover classification and vegetation studies. Nevertheless, no successor satellites have been launched yet to overcome the technical and application issues found in TiungSAT-1 and RazakSAT satellites. The recently initiated public-private partnership in developing the space sector in Malaysia is expected to produce and launch more remote-sensing microsatellites in the near future.