Sun, Jan 06, 2019 - Page 1 News List

Formosat-7 to be sent to the US in diplomatic mail

By Chien Hui-ju  /  Staff reporter

A model of the Formosat-7 satellite constellation is pictured on June 22 last year.

Photo: Chien Hui-ju, Taipei Times

The Formosat-7 satellite constellation might be launched from the US in the second quarter of this year and would be transported to the US in a diplomatic pouch, National Space Organization (NSPO) Deputy Director-General Yu Shiann-jen (余憲政) said on Friday.

Formosat-7 was jointly developed by the NSPO and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration following an agreement signed in 2010 by the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the US and the American Institute in Taiwan.

It is comprised of six microsatellites and was designed to take over the mission of collecting weather data from the Formosat-3 constellation, the NSPO has said.

Formosat-7 originally comprised of 13 microsatellites in two groups, but the two sides in October 2017 agreed that only the first group’s six microsatellites and another domestically developed satellite would be launched, due to budget constraints in the US.

Its planned launch date has been postponed several times.

Formosat-7’s launch date has yet to be determined, Yu said, adding that US officials would meet with NSPO officials at the end of this month.

As the constellation was developed by government agencies on both sides, it would be transported to the US in a diplomatic pouch, marking the first time a Taiwanese satellite is delivered to the US by such means, he added.

It would be launched on SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket following the launch of Saudi Arabia’s Arabsat-6A, Yu said, adding that the rocket successfully completed its tests last year and would begin commercial services next month.

Formosat-7 would be transported to the US on a China Airlines Ltd (中華航空) cargo aircraft, he said.

The NSPO would inform the airline 60 days before the constellation’s launch, he said, adding that delivery work might not begin until the Lunar New Year holiday ends on Feb. 10.

While Formosat-3 is the world’s first satellite that collects weather data through radio occultation techniques, Formosat-7 is expected to collect three to four times more data, the NSPO said.

Formosat-7 would receive about 4,000 signals per day from the US Global Positioning System (GPS) and the Russian Global Navigation Satellite System, while Formosat-3 can receive 2,000 GPS signals, it said, adding that Formosat-7 would increase weather forecast precision by 6 percent.

Additional reporting by Lin Chia-nan

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