Taiwanese scientists have developed the nation’s first space-based Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver, which boasts several improvements over versions obtainable from overseas and can help cut the country’s reliance on foreign imports.
The first locally developed space-borne GPS receiver, which helps satellites navigate in space, is expected to offer more freedom and independence for space missions, as exports of such products are normally kept under tight control by countries around the world, National Space Organization (NSPO) head Chang Guey-shin (張桂祥) said yesterday.
Taiwan has relied on European countries, including Germany and France, for such devices in previous missions and for a mission scheduled for next year.
The newly developed device is also expected to drive the development of space missions, which used to suffer serious delays due to the time required — from as long as three to six months — for Taiwan to gain approval for imports, NSPO section chief Lin Chen-tsung (林辰宗) said.
The newly developed device will join the FORMOSAT-7 program, a collaboration between the NSPO and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The FORMOSAT-7 program is comprised of a group of 13 weather satellites — 12 mission-specific orientated satellites and one NSPO-built satellite.
The locally developed GPS receiver is to be loaded onto the NSPO-built satellite, which is scheduled to be launched in 2018 or 2019.
Developed by the NSPO over three years, the device boasts several improvements over existing versions as it is lighter, more energy-efficient and cheaper to build.
Compared with existing versions, which weigh between 2kg and 3kg and cost about NT$20 million (US$658,400) to build, the new device weighs just 0.8kg and costs NT$6 million to manufacture, Lin said.
Other advantages of the new device are greater ease for designers to tweak the functions, which takes only 40 days, compared with the 220 days scientists used to need to spend redesigning the chips in the receiver.
The new device also takes less time to boot up — 1.5 minutes compared with eight minutes in the past, Lin said.
As Asian counties such as Japan and South Korea are developing their own space-based GPS receivers, Lin said the NSPO will continue to work to make its device lighter, smaller and even more energy-efficient.