Tue, Aug 29, 2017 - Page 4 News List

US warfare center detects Formosat-5

STARTING POINT:Taiwan’s space technology industry still has a ways to go, but the satellite offers a chance to deepen space education, a museum director said

Staff writer, with CNA

A group of Taiwanese scientists behind the successful launch of Formosat-5 are welcomed home from the US yesterday at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport.

Photo: CNA

Formosat-5 has been detected and numbered by the US Department of Defense’s warfare command center, the National Space Organization’s (NSPO) project director Chang Ho-pen (張和本) said yesterday.

The orbit and height of the satellite have met expectations, Chang said at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport upon his return from the US along with some members of his team and Deputy Minister of Science and Technology Su Fong-chin (蘇芳慶).

The group had traveled to Vandenberg Air Force Base in California for the launch of the satellite, which was delivered by a SpaceX Falcon-9 rocket into its 720km orbit several minutes after liftoff at 2:51am on Friday (Taiwan time).

Chang said that several members of his team remained at the US space center, where they are monitoring the remote-sensing satellite, conducting tests and verifying data in the hope that it can soon begin normal operations.

The specialists are to also fine-tune its parameters to ensure that the satellite will run at optimum capacity.

Formosat-5, which was developed and built entirely in Taiwan, is expected to begin providing data that can be used for national security, geopolitical, scientific and academic purposes in about two weeks, the NSPO said.

At the airport, Su said that Formosat-5’s launch highlights the importance of advanced scientific research.

“It not only opens up an aspect of space technology research, but also looks after people’s livelihoods by helping prevent flooding and disasters and helping maintain the land,” he said.

The satellite is the start of an era in the nation’s space industry that could create economic benefits, Su said.

The Formosat-5 is like a giant digital camera that can photograph the Earth from space and send back clear images of the planet’s surface, the Central Weather Bureau’s Weather Information Center head Cheng Chia-ping (程家平) said

It can record changes before and after earthquakes or typhoons and relay images of flooding, landslides and mudslides, which would allow for faster and better-informed disaster prevention and response, Cheng said.

However, while the images can be used to help establish a weather database, they cannot be used for forecasting, he said, adding that Formosat-5 is an optical remote-sensing satellite, not a weather satellite.

The 450kg satellite took six years to develop at a cost of NT$5.7 billion (US$188.4 million).

However, National Museum of Natural Science director-general Sun Wei-hsin (孫維新) said there is still a long way to go to develop a vibrant Taiwanese space industry.

Other nations are ahead of Taiwan in the basic foundations for the industry, expertise and development of the marketplace, he said.

Nonetheless, the creation of the satellite is proof of Taiwan’s scientific knowledge, Sun said.

Formosat-5 is an opportunity to deepen the nation’s space education and cultivate more expertise in the field, Sun said.

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