Sat, Jul 14, 2018 - Page 3 News List

Formosat-7 launch could be postponed, NSPO says

SAFETY FIRST:The satellite cluster was expected to be fired into orbit as early as this month, but is using SpaceX’s latest rocket, which requires more testing

Staff writer, with CNA

A model of the Formosat-7 satellite cluster is pictured in Taipei on June 22.

Photo: Chien Hui-ju, Taipei Times

The launch of the Formosat-7 satellite cluster, a collaborative program between Taiwan and the US, might be postponed to the end of this year, as the US rocket still needs to be tested, a National Space Organization (NSPO) official said yesterday.

Formosat-7 is designed to replace Formosat-3, which has been operating for 12 years and taken more than 10 million soundings — vertical profiles of the atmosphere — since its launch on April 15, 2006.

Formosat-7’s cluster of six satellites would be launched to orbit at an altitude of 550km and a low-inclination angle of 24°, the NSPO said.

It is expected to orbit the Earth every 97 minutes and collect nearly 4,000 soundings of GPS occultation data every day, it said.

Once it becomes commercially operational, Formosat-7 would collect a greater amount of atmospheric and ionospheric weather data — about three to four times more than its predecessor, while improving the precision of the nation’s weather forecasts by at least 10 percent, the NSPO said.

The cluster was slated to be launched this month or next month using the Falcon Heavy rocket, which was developed by US company SpaceX, but the launch time would possibly be postponed to the end of this year, NSPO Deputy Director-General Yu Shiann-jen (余憲政) said.

As the Falcon Heavy is SpaceX’s newest rocket, it requires more time for tests, Yu said.

In April and May, the US sent experts to replace some of Formosat-7’s components after the NSPO detected signal interference among its scientific payloads, he said, adding the satellite cluster is now ready for launch.

Formosat-7 originally comprised two sets of satellites, with the second set containing seven, but the second set’s launch was canceled in October last year due to problems with the US budget, Yu said, adding that the cancelation was a joint decision.

The second set’s seventh satellite, which was made by Taiwan, would still be launched, and the NSPO would seek other rocket suppliers to help with the plan, he said.

It would budget NT$540 million (US$17.67 million) for the seventh satellite’s separate launch, which is scheduled for 2020, Yu added.

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