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Sorry, Elon! How Space Links Jeff Bezos To The Thai Cave Rescue

Rocket carries its first Asian payload

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BY Marishka M. Cabrera - 20 Jul 2018

Sorry, Elon! How Space Links Jeff Bezos To The Thai Cave Rescue

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

On July 18, Jeff Bezos’ aerospace company Blue Origin successfully completed the test flight of its reusable rocket New Shepard, carrying its first Asian payload along with it.

Thai satellite and space company mu Space Corp. sent the six-kilogram payload that contained experiments from several universities and space agencies in Thailand.

And here’s the part that will be particularly painful for rival space explorer Elon Musk, considering his recent controversial statements about one of the key members of the Thai cave rescue: The payload included a jersey of Thailand’s national football team to mark the successful rescue mission—in which mu Space took part—of the 13-member football team who were trapped in a cave for two weeks. Sorry, Elon.  

CEO and founder of mu Space James Yenbamroong says this marks the first flight of a payload from Asia on a reusable space flight.

“We’re going beyond gravity. We have this big ambition to achieve the space dreams of the Thai people,” James says in a statement.

The company, founded in 2017, earlier announced that the payload would include a device from Queen Sirikit National Institute of Child Health developed to prevent profuse bleeding; a carbon nanotube from Chulalongkorn University to study how space affects the material’s structural and electronic properties; and vacuum-sealed food from the Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency (GISTDA) to aid in the development of preparation techniques for food to be consumed in space. 

“The payload will reach 100 kilometers above the Earth’s surface,” James says. “Once in space, the payload will experience a reduced effect of gravity or weightlessness.”

The ninth flight of the New Shepard rocket wraps up the test of the vehicle’s escape system, as the company inches closer toward its first human space flight.

According to Blue Origin, the New Shepard is a fully reusable vertical takeoff, vertical landing (VTVL) space vehicle. The way the system works is that a pressurized capsule is placed atop a booster, and the combined vehicles will launch vertically. After accelerating for approximately two and a half minutes, the engine cuts off and the capsule separates from the booster to coast into space. The booster will go into free fall before it performs an autonomously controlled rocket-powered landing. The capsule will land with the use of parachutes, and both components are ready to be used again.

As for mu Space, James says in an earlier interview with Inc. Southeast Asia that it plans to launch its own satellite in 2020 and is now working on a “low latency, high throughput satellite on a geostationary orbit (GEO).” It plans to raise over $9.2 million in 2018 to fund its business development and expansion.

mu Space is currently focused on delivering “reliable satellite-based broadband” for telcos and private businesses in an effort to provide broadband connectivity to remote areas. But James says they want to be the first in Asia to offer space tourism, even as the likes of Blue Origin, SpaceX, and Virgin Galactic lead the pack.


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