Wed, Jan 31, 2018 - Page 4 News List

‘Space Cube’ probe draws interest in collaboration

By Wu Po-wei and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

An advanced ionospheric probe developed by Taiwanese researcher Chao Chi-kuang (趙吉光) has piqued the interest of the scientific community, with overseas universities reaching out to Chao seeking collaboration for further development.

Universities in the US and India and Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University have expressed an interest in collaboration, said Chao, director of National Central University’s Center for Space and Remote Sensing Research.

The probe, nicknamed the “Space Cube” due to its shape, was used on Formosat-3 and Formosat-5, Chao said, adding that the module on the newer satellite is more advanced.

The module on Formosat-3 requires two to three months to complete one global ionospheric parameter distribution chart, while the Formosat-5 version can complete a chart in two days, offering greater data accuracy and higher efficiency, due to its orbit cycle, Chao said.

Liu Jann-yenq (劉正彥), Chao’s colleague at the center, said that ionospheric density is an important seismo-ionospheric precursor, as data have shown that ionospheric density changes radically directly above the epicenter of an earthquake.

Formosat-5 had observed an abnormal accretion of ionospheric density nine days before a magnitude 7.3 earthquake struck the Iran-Iraq border last year, Liu said.

The probe uploads data on a daily basis, but the institute is using such information only for research, Chao said.

“We cannot provide real-time analysis of the data due to limited personnel at the institute and large quantities of data,” Chao said.

Prediction of seismic activity would be possible if the institute receives help from agencies such as the Central Weather Bureau, he added.

Priority access to the probe’s data will be given to domestic atmospheric researchers from March and be opened to researchers in other fields in June, Chao said.

All data will be uploaded to the Internet for global use by the end of this year, he added.

As of Oct. 31, the probe had undergone 170 hours of testing in space and uploaded about 1 gigabyte (GB) of orbital test data for the local ground control center to calibrate Formosat-5 for optimal observation, Chao said.

Since calibration was completed on Nov. 1, the satellite has uploaded more than 8.5GB of data, he said.

More advanced versions of the probe are to be carried by Formosat-7, he added.

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