Fri, Jan 21, 2005 - Page 2 News List

Compensation for delays in satellite launch reduced

SETTLEMENT The Public Construction Commission decided that the US launch contractor had to pay only US$36,500 after the delays in launching ROCSAT-2


After the delays last year in launching Taiwan's second satellite, officially known as ROCSAT-2, compensation amounting to only 15 percent of the maximum amount stipulated in the original contract will be payable to the National Space Program Office, the National Science Council (NSC) said yesterday.

The council yesterday received an official decision from the Public Construction Commission (PCC), which arbitrated the dispute between the council's National Space Program Office and US Orbital Sciences Corp (OSC), a contract operator of the Taurus vehicle which lifted the satellite into orbit on May 21 last year in California.

The launch was originally set for Dec. 31, 2003. In terms of the original contract, the OSC would have to pay US$36,500 for each day the launch is delayed, starting from the middle of January, up to a maximum of US$3.6 million.

However, the PCC decided that the OSC would have to pay only US$532,000, or 15 percent of the maximum total, as well as a fee of NT$350,000 (around US$11,000) for PCC's arbitration.

The conclusion was reached after discussions between the officials involved, eight technical experts and 11 lawyers.

"We fully accept the result. After all, the success of the launch mission is our priority, and the OSC did achieve it," NSC Deputy Chairman Shieh Ching-jyh (謝清志) told a press conference yesterday.

Shieh said that the OSC had brought up two points of force majeure in its defense, including an earthquake in late December in California and the unexpected requisition of igniters used in launch vehicles for the sake of US national defense.

Shieh said that getting along with overseas collaborators on national projects was one of the council's key strategies to strengthen sound international relations.

National Space Program Office director Lance Wu (吳作樂) said that the nation will still work with the OSC on its next space project, ROCSAT-3.

The project will involve collaboration with the US to integrate six remote-sensing microsatellites to collect atmospheric data to monitor weather patterns and for research on the ionosphere, climate and gravity. The launch date is expected to be in late January next year.

"Because of the ROCSAT-2 case, we might review contracts signed with the OSC to ensure Taiwan's interests in case similar problems occur," Wu said.

Cheng Kuo-ping (鄭國屏), manager of the National Space Program Office's Program Control Department, said the compensation amount was enough to cover financial losses involving insurance, rental of facilities and maintenance caused by the delays in launching ROCSAT-2.

The National Space Program Office said that the satellite was in excellent working order and can produce black-and-white images of objects as small as 2m across.

After the devastating tsunami in Southern Asia, the satellite flies over affected areas twice a day. Since Dec. 28, ROCSAT-2 has been conducting special operations to take pictures of the most seriously affected areas.

The one-month task will help to produce the most valuable database of satellite imagery for researchers to study issues related to the tsunami.

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