Big Blow to Myanmar, as Japan, Blocks Myanmar’s First Satellite on its Space Station

Japan has blocked Myanmar’s first satellite, though the satellite was launched from earth but was stored in the Japna’s section of the International Space Station.

The satellite was dispatched by NASA on Feb 20 as a small part of an enormous and shifted payload of provisions to the International Space Station which is 400 km over the earth. It has since been kept by JAXA inside Japan’s Kibo explore module.

The satellite was mutually built by Japan’s Hokkaido University and Myanmar’s administration financed Myanmar Aerospace Engineering University at an expense of about $15 million. It’s the first of two 50-kilogram microsatellites with cameras that will screen horticulture and fisheries.

It is an earth observation satellite that would be used to improve agricultural production, prevent and mitigate disaster damage, and control environmental pollution.

Reason behind Japan’s Action

Japan has always maintained strong relations with Myanmar and is one of the country’s largest aid donors. Although condemning the violence, it has not been as harsh in its criticism of the coup as the United States and other Western countries that have imposed sanctions.

Contract with Myanmar Aerospace Engineering University did not mention that the satellite shouldn’t be used for military purposes, as told by the Hokkaido University officials. However, data from the spacecraft will be obtained by the Japanese university and would not be accessible to Myanmar officials independently.

Human rights activists and some Japanese authorities were worried that cameras mounted in the satellite could be utilized for military purposes, for example, by Myanmar’s military, which held onto power on February 1, to screen protestors. That is the reason the sending has been required to briefly wait.

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Why this project was important to Myanmar?

Myanmar's First Satellite on its Space Station

ASEAN countries, such as the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia, have become active in space development and Myanmar did not want to lose the race, so a steering committee was established by the Myanmar government in 2017 to set up a countries-owned satellite system.

Myanmar has obtained the right to use part of Intelsat 39, a communications satellite that was launched from French Guiana in August 2019, for services in the country.

Though it was not Myanmar’s fully-owned satellite so in 2021 they planned to launch its first satellite, using Japanese technology. 

Under this contract, Myanmar engineers will build two satellites over five years as part of the initiative and will acquire experience in satellite design and data processing through a series of processes leading up to the launch.

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