Mongolia in talks with SpaceX to launch first national satellite

FILE PHOTO: Illustration shows SpaceX logo and Elon Musk photo

(Reuters) - The Mongolian government said on Thursday it is in talks with Elon Musk's SpaceX to launch the country's first national telecommunications satellite, its latest move to improve connectivity and develop its "domestic space economy."

The satellite, currently being constructed by French company Thales Alenia Space, is tasked with improving Mongolia's disaster management and emergency response, increasing broadband internet access and supporting its scientific research and education among other purposes, the government said in a statement.

"Launching our own satellite marks a defining moment for Mongolia's journey towards becoming a spacefaring nation," Mongolia's Minister of Digital Development and Communications Uchral Nyam-Osor said in the statement.

"It signifies Mongolia's commitment to fostering a thriving domestic space industry and its pursuit of a digital future driven by cutting-edge innovation," Nyam-Osor added.

The talks came after Mongolia granted two licences for SpaceX to operate as an internet service provider using low-orbit satellites last year, which would enable millions of internet users in the country to access high-speed connection via Starlink.

"SpaceX's investment in Mongolia demonstrates the confidence they have in the digital transformation and sustainable development programmes at the centre of Mongolia's New Recovery Policy and Vision2050," Nyam-Osor said.

Starlink services in Mongolia are expected to be available from late February.

The satellite communications service operated by SpaceX has built a fast-growing network of more than 3,500 satellites in low-Earth orbit that can provide connectivity in remote areas.

Resource-rich Mongolia has extensive deposits of rare earth minerals and copper, which are critical materials in the electric vehicle supply chain.

(Reporting by Ethan Wang, Ella Cao and Ryan Woo; Editing by Hugh Lawson)