Published on 27 Feb 2023

Space start-up raises US$1.05m to build satellites in Malawi

Former NTU PhD student aims to harness the strengths of Singapore and Malawi for satellite venture

Singapore-based start-up, Galamad Aerospace, founded by Malawian-born Christopher Luwanga, says it has secured US$1.05m in pre-seed financing to design and build satellites. Luwanga, who did his PhD research in space weather modelling at Nanyang Technological University (NTU), plans to engineer the satellites in Singapore and manufacture them in Malawi.

During an interview with the NTU-SBF Centre for African Studies, Luwanga explained that Galamad aims to differentiate itself from competitors by creating programmable and reusable satellites. Galamad's satellites will be designed to allow for changes in their functionality while they are in space. Additionally, once their tasks are completed, they can be retrieved, refurbished, and then deployed again for future space expeditions.

Luwanga says Malawi is a low-cost manufacturing destination. Although the southern African country lacks expertise in satellite manufacturing, he believes skilled workforce can be trained for this purpose. He is confident that he would be able to navigate the licensing and regulatory requirements in his home country.

While some African countries have announced plans for spaceports, Luwanga says until these become functioning, he envisages Galamad’s satellites being launched from traditional locations such as India and the United States.

Galamad's pre-seed funding round was supported by individual angel investors from the United States, Australia, and Singapore. Although Luwanga had been contemplating the idea for several years, the company was only registered earlier this year, and the funds raised will be used to build the team.

Luwanga received his undergraduate degree in mechanical and aerospace engineering from New York University in Abu Dhabi. In 2018, he pursued his PhD at NTU, a decision that was influenced by Amal Chandran, his future PhD supervisor whom he met at a conference in South Africa. Chandran was the director of NTU's Satellite Research Centre, which has launched numerous satellites for Singapore. “I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to be able to do both research and hands-on engineering work on the side,” he explains.

One advantage of studying at NTU, according to Luwanga, is the institution's access to ample funding for transforming ideas into practical experiments. Additionally, Singapore's reputation as a hub for top researchers from around the globe provides an opportunity to collaborate with other bright minds.

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