FORMOSAT-2, the nation’s first locally developed ionospheric research and surface mapping satellite, has been decommissioned after 12 years in operation.
The satellite had remained operational eight years past its expected lifespan of five years, but a series of equipment failures finally forced the National Space Organization (NSPO) to pull the plug.
One of its four reaction wheels, which rotate and position the satellite, malfunctioned in 2013, and another one stopped working in June, which meant FORMOSAT-2 could no longer take pictures or make observations, the agency said.
Photo courtesy of the National Space Organization
After weeks of repair efforts, the NSPO determined that the problematic wheels could not be fixed and that FORMOSAT-2 had to be retired.
The agency made its last contact with FORMOSAT-2 during a decommissioning ceremony on Friday at its headquarters in Hsinchu, bringing an end to the nation’s most successful surveillance satellite program.
“With gratitude, we congratulate FORMOSAT-2 for the service it provided. It accompanied us over the past 12 years as we grew up. It is like an old friend, or more like a teacher,” NSPO Director Chang Guey-shin (張桂祥) said. “The satellite made an unparalleled contribution to the nation’s space development.”
The satellite, which cost NT$4.6 billion (US$145.5 million at current exchange rates) to build, was launched on May 21, 2004, from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
It circles the Earth once every 103 minutes and passes over Taiwan twice a day.
It was the nation’s only satellite with a daily revisit capability, meaning it could take pictures of a given location every day, and the only one that could photograph the polar regions.
The satellite took about 2.55 million pictures of the Earth’s surface.
The pictures brought in about NT$600 million in revenue, while images worth about NT$1.1 billion were provided to 191 government agencies and 176 academic institutions in Taiwan free of charge.
The satellite helped with scientific research, environmental monitoring, urban planning and natural disaster prevention and evaluation.
FORMOSAT-2 was used in 343 disaster response missions, providing authorities with immediate images of damaged areas during the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami in December 2004, Hurricane Katrina in the US in 2005, the Sichuan earthquake in China in 2008, Typhoon Morakot in Taiwan in 2009 and the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan in 2011.
For eight days after Morakot hit Taiwan, the satellite took detailed pictures of all areas damaged by the typhoon to help the government evaluate the situation and plan its emergency response.
FORMOSAT-2 was also the first satellite to observe the transient luminous event — an electrical-discharge phenomena well above the altitudes of normal lightning and storm clouds — and its observations have been cited in numerous academic research.
Additional reporting by staff writer
NO CONSENSUS YET: Local governments and the CECC have agreed to change the ‘3+4’ self-isolation policy, but are still mulling what to replace it with The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) and local governments have agreed to ease restrictions on close contacts of COVID-19 cases, although the details are still being discussed, the center said yesterday. The discussions follow Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) on Saturday approving a proposal to shorten the “3+4” policy — three days of home isolation followed by four days of self-disease prevention — for close contacts who have received booster doses. “We did not reach a consensus on how to revise the current restrictions, but we all agreed that the administrative burden must be reduced and the intensity of restrictions must be eased,
OPPOSING CHINESE ‘HOSTILITY’: The bill orders the state secretary to create a plan to regain observer status for Taiwan, saying Taipei is a model contributor to world health US President Joe Biden on Friday signed a bill into law to help Taiwan regain observer status at the World Health Assembly (WHA), demonstrating Washington’s support for Taiwan’s international participation. Friday was the deadline for Biden to sign the bill (S.812), which directs “the Secretary of State to develop a strategy to regain observer status for Taiwan in the World Health Organization (WHO), and for other purposes.” The 75th WHA, the decisionmaking body of the WHO, is scheduled to meet in Geneva, Switzerland, from Sunday next week to May 28. The bill, introduced by US Senator Bob Menendez, chairman of the US Senate
REACHING OUT: President Tsai expressed condolences to the deceased man’s family and wished a speedy recovery to those who were wounded in the shooting The Formosan Association for Public Affairs (FAPA) on Monday called on the US to label organizations associated with the suspect in the Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church shooting as domestic terrorists, following accusations that he was a member of a group backing unification with ties to the Chinese government. David Wenwei Chou (周文偉), 68, was arrested on Sunday and is being held in lieu of US$1 million bail at the Orange County Intake Release Center over a mass shooting at the California church that left one dead and five wounded. Local police suspect the shooting was politically motivated after they found notes in
‘DAMOCLES SWORD’: An Italian missionary said the arrest of cardinal Zen is a blow for the church in Hong Kong, China and the world, signaling great danger ahead China yesterday defended the arrest of a 90-year-old Catholic cardinal under Hong Kong’s National Security Law, a move that triggered international outrage and deepened concerns over Beijing’s crackdown on freedoms in the territory. Retired cardinal Joseph Zen (陳日君), one of the most senior Catholic clerics in Asia, was among a group of veteran democracy advocates arrested on Wednesday for “colluding with foreign forces.” Pop singer Denise Ho (何韻詩), veteran barrister Margaret Ng (吳靄儀) and cultural studies academic Hui Po-keung (許寶強) were also arrested, the latter as he attempted to fly to Europe to take up an academic post. Cyd Ho (何秀蘭), a democracy