By John Pennington
As NASA looks for signs of life on Mars, it seems an odd time for Myanmar to focus on sending satellites into space while civil conflicts rage on the ground and the nation battles the coronavirus pandemic.
However, the country is not interested in exploring new frontiers or entering a "space race" to prove its technological prowess. Its space programme, developed in collaboration with experts at Hokkaido University and Tohuku University in Japan, aims to improve connectivity, mitigate the impacts of natural disasters and boost crop production.
Myanmar first stepped up its space plans in 2017 when it set up a steering committee to develop its own satellite system. In August 2019, it launched Myanmar-sat2 to deliver improved broadband and video distribution services.
As Myanmar aims to get 95% of its population online by 2022, the new satellite means they no longer have to pay upwards of US$10 million per year to rent satellite channels from China, Thailand, the US and Vietnam. The savings will go towards covering some of the US$155.7 million Myanmar spent on its launch.