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Fri, May 04, 2001 - Page 2 News List

US `eye in the sky' to helpobserve Taiwan's weather

By Chiu Yu-Tzu  /  STAFF REPORTER

The National Science Council yesterday held a ceremony with representatives of US corporations, scientific agencies and the military to publicize details of a US$5 million technology transfer program in connection with the ROCSAT-3 (中華衛星三號計畫) space satellite project.

Science council officials said that ROCSAT-3 would be used to provide real-time weather monitoring data, which is essential for accurate weather forecasts.

Taiwan's National Space Program Office under the council, and the US' University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) signed a science support contract on the ROCSAT-3 program in January, and a spacecraft contract in March.

Yesterday, the science council's chairman, Wei Che-ho (魏哲和), signed the cooperation agreement with US representatives from UCAR and the Orbital Science Corporation, a space technology provider.

Other US representatives at the ceremony included members of the National Science Foundation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the US Air Force, US Navy and officials of the American Institute in Taiwan.

The ROCSAT-3 program is a collaborative project between Taiwan and the US to develop a constellation of six low-earth orbiting satellites for weather forecasts, space weather monitoring and climate-related scientific research.

Science council officials stressed yesterday that the program was for weather-related research only and was irrelevant to national defense.

The six "constellation satel-lites," according to the program, will receive signals from the Global Positioning System (GPS). The data will be transferred to 2,500 observatories around the world. It is believed that the data will improve the precision of weather forecasting.

"ROCSAT-3 has the potential to make revolutionary improvements to weather forecasting," said David Thompson, the Orbital Science Corporation's chairman and CEO.

Scientists from both sides will work together on building a system, called the Constellation Observing System for Meteorology, Ionosphere and Climate (COS-MIC), which will have three primary components, including an advanced GPS receiver, tiny ionospheric photometer and tri-band beacon transmitter. The data collected by Taiwan's constellation satellites will be received by the US COSMIC Data Analysis & Archive Center (CDAAC) and be applied to weather forecast systems.

Five Taiwanese companies are expected to benefit from the program. Technologies will be transferred to these companies for the production of 14 spacecraft components.

National Space Program Office director Lee Lou-chuang (李羅權) said that the office was ambitious to play a leading role in future international collaborative projects, which would involve more countries, including European nations and Japan.

Lee said that the space program office was planning to build as many as 50 constellation satellites to carry out weather-related scientific research.

Dr Richard Anthes, president of UCAR, said that he was very pleased to learn about Lee's idea.

"It's the kind of forward, leadership thinking that is important ... Other countries will quickly see the value," Anthes said. He once predicted that there would be 200 constellation satellites in orbit by 2025 to improve the precision of regional weather forecasts.

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