Taiwan’s first domestically developed remote sensing satellite, Formosat-5, yesterday launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California after six years of work by the National Space Organization (NSPO).
It was the first time the NSPO has taken on the task of designing, developing and engineering a satellite in the more than two decades since the organization’s establishment.
Former NSPO director-general Hang Guey-shin (張桂祥) said in an interview that what is now a proud accomplishment for the NSPO team was originally a last resort.
Photo: CNA, courtesy of NSPO
In 2006, the organization commissioned the development of two remote sensing satellites.
The first, which would become Formosat-5, was to be developed by the agency with the guidance of a foreign space company, Chang said.
However, on the day when bidding for the project was to take place, no one showed up, leaving the Taiwanese team no choice but to do everything on its own.
That was the start of Formosat-5, which from today is to replace Formosat-2 in its mission to monitor and provide surveillance data for national security and disaster relief, as well as for technological and academic purposes.
Chang said he initially expected that acquiring component parts for the program would be difficult, given the Formosat-2 team had “only seen, but not touched” the sensors, chips and computers on the satellite.
As it turned out, the main challenge lay in the assembly of the satellite, which required skills that had been largely kept a trade secret by the international space industry, Chang said.
Chang said he knew that his team had to keep going.
After all, it was a project with a NT$3 billion (US$99.2 million) budget, he said.
Under the guidance of the National Applied Research Laboratories, the NSPO recruited personnel from high-tech industries, research institutes and private firms to form a team to execute the program.
Over the next six years, collaboration between different industrial sectors in Taiwan enabled the development of components for the project, including the Advanced Ionospheric Probe developed by National Central University and the remote sensing instrument.
The challenges did not end when configuration of the project was complete, Chang said, adding that the team encountered difficulties every step of the way, but eventually, the challenges were overcome.
Testing the satellite proved particularly difficult, as the slightest vibration from the highway near the space program’s warehouse affected optical testing results, Chang said.
More importantly, it had to be proved that the satellite was sturdy enough to withstand the extreme conditions and temperatures of outer space, Chang added.
On Oct. 16, 2015, the agency announced that Formosat-5 had passed the space environment and function tests, thereby qualifying it to replace Formosat-2, which by that time was six years overdue for retirement.
The final hurdle came on Sept. 1 last year, when the Falcon 9 rocket that was supposed to carry Formosat-5 into space exploded during preparations for a static fire test at Cape Canaveral.
The mini-satellite, which is 2m high and 1.2m wide, reflects how far space technology research has come in Taiwan since the 1990s, astronomer and National Museum of Natural Science director-general Sun Wei-hsin (孫維新) said.
However, the nation still has a long way to go to develop a vibrant space industry, Sun said.
SPEEDING ELETRIC VEHICLES: Available without license requirements, the low-cost vehicles, especially if illicitly modified, can often reach a dangerous speed The government should crack down on illegal electric bicycles and scooters, the non-profit Consumers’ Foundation said on Friday, citing research on the potentially dangerous speed of the vehicles. Electric bicycles and lightweight electric scooters have gained popularity as they do not require registration and riders do not need licenses, the foundation said, adding that as many as 40 percent of them can reach speeds exceeding the legal limit of 25kph for non-licensed two-wheelers. Some consumers also purchased legal electric vehicles and modified them to reach higher speeds, it said. “If the government does not step up efforts to confiscate these
‘RELIABLE PARTNER’: US Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar praised the ‘Taiwan model,’ saying that the nation brought its spirit to its COVID-19 response The first memorandum of understanding (MOU) on health cooperation between the Ministry of Health and Welfare and the US Department of Health and Human Services was yesterday signed at the Centers for Disease Control in Taipei. The memorandum was signed between the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) and the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the US, by AIT Director Brent Christensen and Taiwan Council for US Affairs Chairperson Jen-ni Yang (楊珍妮). US Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar and Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) witnessed the signing of the memorandum, designed to enhance the nations’
Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) yesterday tweeted a welcome to Somaliland’s first representative to Taiwan, Mohamed Omar Hagi Mohamoud, who arrived on Friday. Mohamoud had “braved Chinese pressure” to take up his new post, Wu wrote. “The fact ‘sovereignty & friendship aren’t for sale’ deserves international recognition,” referring to a Somaliland media report earlier this month that Somaliland President Muse Bihi Abdi had rejected an offer by the Chinese government in exchange for ending its rapprochement with Taiwan. Wu also thanked the US National Security Council (NSC) for praising Taiwan-Somaliland ties. A council tweet on July 10 praised Taiwan
The US on Thursday removed a warning against all international travel, and placed Taiwan on a list of 13 destinations where the risk of COVID-19 transmission is “very low.” The list was compiled almost five months after the US Department of State issued a “global level 4 health advisory,” urging US citizens to avoid all international travel. On Thursday, the department announced that it was lifting the advisory, saying that “with health and safety conditions improving in some countries and potentially deteriorating in others, the Department is returning to our previous system of country-specific levels of travel advice.” The US