Sat, Feb 25, 2006 - Page 2 News List

No decision yet on satellite flag: science council

By Chiu Yu-Tzu  /  STAFF REPORTER

A final decision on whether Taiwan's national flag or any image representing Taiwan may be placed on the launch vehicle, which is operated by the US Air Force, for FORMOSAT-3 satellites will be made early next month, following discussions by officials from Taipei and Washington, the National Science Council said yesterday.

The council's Deputy Minister Shieh Ching-jyh (謝清志) said that Chen Yaw-nan (陳燿南), head of the Science and Technology Division of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the US, together with other Taiwanese diplomats in Washington, had met with their counterparts from the American Institute in Taiwan to discuss the issue.

"So far, the US has not officially rejected our proposal. After all, having the national flag on launch vehicles is a tradition. Besides, we share 80 percent of the cost of building the rocket and the launch service," Shieh said, quoting Chen's report.

When Taiwan launched its first two satellites, ROCSAT-1 and ROCSAT-2 in 1999 and 2004, the national flag was painted on the commercially operated launch vehicles. For FORMOSAT-3, however, the launch vehicle will be operated by the US Air Force. The launch is scheduled for the end of next month.

Also called COSMIC, for Constellation Observing System for Meteorology, Ionosphere and Climate, the NT$3.3 billion (US$100 million) project is under the supervision of the National Space Organization in Taiwan and the Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) in the US. The US National Science Foundation (NSF) is also supportive of the project because of potential scientific developments in the field of meteorology.

Shieh said that while the US sees the issue as a political one, a final decision will be made prior to the Mission Readiness Review meeting for FORMOSAT-3, which will be held on March 2 in Colorado, where the UCAR headquarters is located.

"If both sides fail to reach an agreement on the issue at the meeting, that means the launch project will not be ready and the launch might be delayed," he said.

Before the meeting, Shieh said that the council will work with diplomatic officials closely to facilitate communication with the US.

"The failure of FORMOSAT-3 might also damage both the UCAR and NSF. That's the last thing we want to see," Shieh said.

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