Thu, Feb 26, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Postponing ROCSAT-2 launch not an election issue: NSC

EARTH-BOUND The National Science Council said the problems and delays with the nation's second satellite had nothing to do with politics


Postponing the liftoff of the nation's second satellite, ROCSAT-2, from this month to late next month had no connection to the March 20 presidential election, National Science Council (NSC) officials told legislators yesterday.

The comment came in response to a question from Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Kwan Yuk-noan (關沃暖), who asked why the launch of ROCSAT-2 had been repeatedly delayed.

"I wonder why you guys won't have the satellite launched before the election," Kwan said at a meeting held by the legislature's Sci-tech and Information Committee.

KMT Legislator Wang Chung-yu (王鍾渝) called for a report from the council about the delays and possible financial losses they might cause.

"We need details to review R&D [research and development] investments on the project and its future profits," Wang said.

Officials at the National Space Program Office (NSPO) said the launch was adjusted for purely scientific reasons.

According to Lee Lou-chuang (李羅權), president of National Applied Research laboratories and NSPO director, all simulation tests for the launch vehicle would be completed early next month and a window for the liftoff would be decided on then.

"So we estimate that the launch could be scheduled between late March and early April. It has nothing to do with the presidential election," Lee said.

ROCSAT-2 was shipped to California on Dec. 1 last year, about six weeks ahead of the original launch date.

On Dec. 10, NSC officials said electrical circuit problems with the Taurus rocket, the launch vehicle, would delay the scheduled liftoff from Jan. 17 to Feb. 26.

Earlier this month, council officials said that US Orbital Sciences Corp (OSC), the operator of the Taurus vehicle, had notified them of inaccuracies in the precision equipment because of the 6.5 magnitude earthquake that shook California on Dec. 22.

OSC requested more time to fix problems with their ground apparatus and the liftoff was delayed to late next month.

Last week, NSC officials and NSPO experts visited the launch site, Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, to probe the cause of the delays. They said most of the problems had been fixed and the satellite was in good condition.

NSC Deputy Minister Shieh Ching-jyh (謝清志) told the Taipei Times that such adjustments to schedule were common.

Lee said the OSC would have to pay US$36,500 for each day the launch was delayed based on the contract. The count began in the middle of January. Compensation, however, is limited to a maximum of US$3.6 million.

Lee said that US$14.4 million of the total launching fee of US$36 million had not yet been paid to OSC. The delay compensation will be deducted from the unpaid amount and the remainder will not be paid until ROCSAT-2 is successfully launched.

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