Sat, Feb 24, 2018 - Page 3 News List

Taiwanese satellite nails image clarity

IMPROVED QUALITY:The Formosat-5 satellite has officially transmitted images at the resolution it was initially designed to produce, but only in good weather

By Lin Chia-nan  /  Staff reporter

Minister of Science and Technology Chen Liang-gee shows a complete and cloudless satellite image of Taiwan that was presented as a gift to President Tsai Ing-wen at a news conference held by the ministry in Taipei yesterday. The image was compiled using different images taken by Formosat-5.

Photo: Chien Jung-fong, Taipei Times

The nation’s first domestically developed satellite, Formosat-5, has taken images at the resolution it was designed to deliver, but only “when weather conditions are good,” Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) officials said yesterday, adding it has completed its mission of capturing satellite images of Taiwan.

The satellite was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Aug. 25 last year, but the first images it transmitted back in September last year were fuzzy and marred by light spots.

Since then, the National Space Organization (NSPO) has been working to improve its image quality using image processing software and by adjusting the satellite’s altitude, angle and the temperature of its imaging device.

At a news conference in Taipei yesterday, project director Chang Ho-pen (張和本) said the satellite has achieved the resolution it was designed to produce — 2m for black-and-white images and 4m for color images — when the weather permits.

“For example, the satellite images taken from above China and from above California can be very different when the former has serious air pollution,” Chang said.

Yet, the NSPO has not quantified what weather conditions would allow the satellite to transmit images at its default resolution, he added.

The satellite’s images have already proven sufficient in supporting the nation’s disaster prevention missions, and would be available on the organization’s Web site from September, he said, adding that the US, Japan, Russia and Australia have expressed an interest in purchasing the images.

Asked if Formosat-5’s performance has achieved the ministry’s objectives, Chang said “yes,” while Minister of Science and Technology Chen Liang-gee (陳良基) gave a more reserved response.

The imaging capabilities of Formosate-5 have surpassed those of Formosat-2, which has a 2m resolution for monochromatic images and 8m for colored ones, Chen said.

However, when compared with the US Army’s stricter requirements, it only achieves a 3m resolution for black-and-white images and 5m for colored ones, he said.

As the NSPO is planning to launch one satellite per year in the following 10 years, it will pay more attention to the mechanical adjustment and microwave sensing capabilities of satellites, Chen said.

Meanwhile, Formosat-5, which passes over the same spot on Earth every two days, has finished taking remote images of Taiwan during its orbits between September and December last year, he said.

The ministry presented a complete satellite image of Taiwan to President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday, with Tsai promising to support its space programs, Chen added.

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