Tuan Haji Azlikamil Napiah, Director General of Malaysian Space Agency (MYSA)
Azlikamil Napiah became the Director General of the Malaysian Space Agency (MYSA) in May 2019 after serving as Director General of the Malaysian Remote Sensing Agency from 2015 to 2019. Since his first involvement as a researcher in 1994, he has had more than 29 years of substantial knowledge in space technology and its applications. He played a key role in the establishment of Malaysia downstream space infrastructure and related activities, the Malaysian Space Act 2022, and the implementation of the National Space Policy (ISP) 2030.
Azlikamil began his career as a researcher at the Malaysian Centre for Remote Sensing (MACRES) in August 1994. Since then, he has consistently contributed his expertise to the research, creation, and management of Malaysia’s space industry. This covers space earth observation, communication, navigation, and other associated space activities. He also oversees MYSA’s strategic planning and champions space technology as a driver of economic growth.
It gives us pleasure to highlight Tuan Haji Azlikamil’s priceless knowledge and proficiency in this edition.
Driving national space aspirations
The Malaysian Space Agency, or MYSA, is a fully government-owned department under the Ministry of Science, Technology, and Innovation (MOSTI). Our goal is to significantly influence the advancement of space technology to support the growth and prosperity of the nation. In order to accomplish this, we need a robust ecosystem supporting the space sector. Due to this, the National Space Policy 2030 was created in 2017, focusing on 5 areas of thrust.
The 5 thrusts include strengthening space administration, space infrastructure and application empowerment, further developing capacity or expertise in space science and technology, creating space impact on the country’s economy and prosperity, and strengthening international strategic collaboration. It is time for Malaysia to transition from its current position as a space technology user, which we have been doing since the late 1980s, to that of a prospective creator or innovator in the field of space-related industries in the coming future.
We recognise the necessity for Malaysia to engage in and seize opportunities to benefit the public and advance national development in light of the increasing global rise of technology. As a result, we believe that in the not-too-distant future, as we are already witnessing globally, space technology will become a new source of the economy. Our goal is to create space technology that can become a new source of the Malaysian economy over the next ten years. We aim to take an active role in space technology internationally and become one of the top three in Southeast Asia in space technology development services or manufacturing.
Another area we want to focus on is commercialisation, with an emphasis on how space technology and its uses may benefit our culture and people. Over the last 20 years, Malaysia has progressed from being a technology user to being a regional leader in space technology thanks to its capacity of local experts and infrastructure development. Active space downstream activities in the pipeline include the 50 system applications created for end-users, including more than 70 government entities, the space ground segment services for data, information, testing and satellite control, and research and development in space-related technology.
We trust that the potential of space technology in Malaysia can be extended to new services and innovations, including launch and rocket launching services. We benefit from Malaysia’s advantageous geography and geographic location in this regard. A further possibility for assuring the sustainability of local expertise is provided by the sheer number of universities in Malaysia and the space technology-related topics they provide.
Our ultimate aim is to empower the aerospace industry in Malaysia to evolve to a level that meets space specifications and to create new space technology services that will open up new opportunities for the growth of our people, economy, and national development.
Calling all collaborators
There are five main goals that must be implemented in order to carry out the National Space Policy 2030. I am thrilled to share with you some of the achievements thus far.
Firstly, we have created a single ecosystem to oversee all space-related activities through the establishment of the Malaysian Space Agency itself. This effort has successfully brought together numerous entities, which were previously working in isolation, to collaborate and optimise resources.
Secondly, we have also established the National Space Act, which provides the legal framework for space technology development and operations in Malaysia. With regard to the spaceworthiness component in particular, this makes Malaysia one of the earliest Southeast Asian nations to have such legislation in place.
With these foundations in place, space technology could become a significant contributor to Malaysia’s economy in the next decade. Our target is for the space technology ecosystem to contribute at least 1% of the national GDP by 2031, equivalent to approximately 10 billion Ringgit. We also aim to create at least 5,000 job opportunities in the space sector.
Our plan is to accumulate a comprehensive space application system, aiming to achieve at least 90% coverage by 2030. This will involve the development of various problem solutions to benefit our country, including natural resource monitoring and management.
We need strategic collaboration and support from various stakeholders to achieve these goals. We must strengthen local industry’s skills in fields like payload, manufacturing, and ICT and leverage international cooperation for fast-tracked development. In addition, we must establish a conducive ecosystem for investment and commercialisation in the space industry.
Finally, there is significant potential for the development of space-related services, such as data, GNSS, and communication services, which can be leveraged between stakeholders and the local industry. With all these efforts combined, we are optimistic about Malaysia’s future as a major player in the space industry.
Looking ahead for the next 10 years
One of our primary objectives is to promote self-reliance in space technology for Malaysia, with the goal of achieving at least 50% by 2030. We have made significant strides in downstream activities and are currently engaged in midstream activities but have yet to explore upstream activities. In the near future, we intend for at least half of the space-related components or technology to be locally manufactured, operated, and created as a new service.
Another important objective is ensuring that space activities contribute to the nation’s economy. While midstream activities include services related to ground-receiving stations and satellite operations, downstream activities can boost the economy through application and problem-solving. Exploring upstream activities can create even more economic value, including the development of commercial services and innovative space-related operations.
Space technology will play a crucial role in the post-COVID era by providing solutions for human life in the future. Regarding research and development, we want to establish Malaysia as a country that can develop its space technology innovation hub within the next ten years. This will ensure the sustainability of our local industry, capacity, experts, and economy. Our primary focus is on making investments in technologies that will benefit the nation long term.
Each nation has its own unique strengths in space technology, be it development, operation, or manufacturing. Türkiye, for example, uses a co-creation approach and is skilled at creating new technology innovations for manufacturing and operation. Some countries, including Russia, Ukraine, Japan, and India, excel in launching services. However, Malaysia is interested in exploring new approaches to launching cost-effective services that do not require huge infrastructure.
Our collaborative approach is selective and strategic, with an emphasis on identifying partners who can contribute in ways that are complementary to our objectives. For instance, since Japan is the only nation currently providing us with this opportunity, we are working with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) to access the ISS. Overall, our investment in space technology is intended to bring long-term returns to Malaysia.
One challenge we face is to ensure that certain objectives can be accomplished in the next ten years in terms of research and development (R&D). First and foremost, we must ensure that current activities, particularly those that are downstream, are maintained. This calls for supplying our end-users with continuous information and opportunity. Secondly, in order to manage the continuity of the downstream activity and prevent potential issues that may arise from relying entirely on global suppliers, we also need to develop our own expertise in upstream activity. Thirdly, as this offers the best chance for a return on investment, we must focus on empowering our services.
I believe we can do this by enrolling for data services, ground-receiving operation services, and upstream services. These three inputs are crucial and highly relevant and we predict that demand for them will be high over the next ten years.