Business Times

Space Agency Act coming soon

By Duruthu Edirimuni Chandrasekera

Sri Lanka is preparing to send the Space Agency Act (SAA) to parliament for sanction next month, having signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the UK-based Surrey Sattelite Technology Ltd and the Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (TRC) to set up Sri Lanka Space Communications Company, according to officials.

“The Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (TRC) legal team has after discussions with the Attorney’s General Department (AG) and sent a draft Act to them. After obtaining the AG’s opinion we hope to send it to the parliament,” Priyantha Kariyapperuma, Director General TRC told the Business Times.

He noted that Sri Lanka is way behind compared to some of its South Asian counterparts in this subject. “India and Pakistan have their own space agencies. We are planning to start the Sri Lanka Space Agency (SLSA) by next year, after finalizing the Act,” he said.

He said SLSA will be an apex body for space and satellite related matters. “It will be like the TRC and we are looking to South Asia to get their ideas to formulate this Act,” he noted. Ian Praine, Project Manager at the Surrey firm, who is in the team setting up the Space Company and helping with drafting the Act, said currently the virtual ground station is being setup.

“We signed the MOU to allow us to move forward in this regard by setting up the company which will own the satellite assets,” he said. Mr. Kariyapperuma said that establishing the SLSA will see the country getting ‘Geo Stationary’ and ‘Lower Earth Orbit’ (LEO) facilities. “With Geo Stationary we can establish satellite communications, broadband, space communications, etc. With LEO we benefit as we can better manage our water resources, coastal conservation, disaster monitoring, forestry, agriculture and the exclusive economic zones we have in the sea,” Mr. Kariyapperuma explained.

He said that Geo Stationary satellites are useful for communications applications because ground based antennas, which must be directed toward the satellite, can operate effectively without the need for expensive equipment to track the satellite’s motion. “Especially for applications that require a large number of ground antennas (such as direct TV distribution), the savings in ground equipment can more than justify the extra cost and onboard complexity of lifting a satellite into the relatively high geostationary orbit,” he said.

Nicholas Plant, International Affairs Consultant who is in the team setting up the new company told the Business Times that a satellite allows Sri Lanka to save a lot of money. “It is more expensive to rent bandwidth and buy the images. It is like renting a car rather than buying one,” he explained.

He said the duration of a satellite is 12 years and Sri Lanka is spending about six to seven times of this cost to purchase bandwidth now. “There are hidden benefits by having your own satellite as the potential in academics can be harnessed. It allows them to earn contracts and build a career rather than moving abroad for jobs,” he said.

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