Mon, Apr 15, 2019 - Page 1 News List

Formosat-7 to be sent to the US today

HIGH-TECH:The satellite is the biggest collaborative program between Taiwan and the US, Tsai Ing-wen said, adding Taiwan plays an important role in international space programs

By Lin Chia-nan  /  Staff reporter

President Tsai Ing-wen, center, talks to a group of children after attending a ceremony at the National Space Organization headquarters yesterday in Hsinchu.

Photo: Peter Lo, Taipei Times

The Formosat-7/COSMIC-2 satellite constellation was yesterday sent to Taoyuan International Airport to be forwarded via diplomatic pouch to the US today, while President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said it would be launched on June 22.

Tsai made the announcement at a ceremony held by the Ministry of Science and Technology at the National Space Organization (NSPO) at the Hsinchu Science Park (新竹科學園區).

The constellation is the biggest-ever collaborative program between Taiwan and the US, Tsai said.

Its launch on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket would be more good news following the revelation on Wednesday of the first image of a black hole by an international group of scientists, including Academia Sinica researchers, she said.

Taiwan plays a vital role in international space programs and has an important role in the Indo-Pacific region, she said, expressing hope that the nation would be safe and its people are proud of being Taiwanese.

The constellation comprises six satellites and is designed to take over the mission of collecting weather data from the Formosat-3/COSMIC constellation, Minister of Science and Technology Chen Liang-gee (陳良基) said.

Formosat-7 is expected to collect three or four times more data than its predecessor, which would improve weather forecasts and disaster prevention efforts, he said.

Each satellite is equipped with three important scientific payloads, the Tri-GNSS Radio Occultation System, an ion velocity meter and a radio frequency beacon, which would be managed by the US Air Force, the NSPO said.

Taiwan and the US each spent about NT$3.2 billion (US$103.6 million at the current exchange rate) on the program, sharing the total cost, NSPO Director-General Lin Chun-liang (林俊良) said.

The constellation would be sent to the US via diplomatic pouch, meaning that it would receive more courteous treatment and skip some inspection steps, Lin said.

After arriving at Miami International Airport, it is scheduled to reach the Kennedy Space Center at 6am tomorrow, he said.

Three hours after launch, the NSPO would know whether the constellation operates normally by examining the data it transmits through a signal reception station in Darwin, Australia, Lin said.

The launch has been postponed several times.

The constellation was to originally comprise of two groups of six satellites, but the development of the second group was canceled in October 2017 due to budget concerns in the US.

Changing policies and technical negotiations were the most challenging parts of the development process, said Formosat-7 project head Chu Chung-hui (朱崇惠), the NSPO’s first female project head, but added that space programs usually take a long time to come to fruition.

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