Sat, Jan 19, 2019 - Page 2 News List

Control Yuan reports on Formosat-5 image issues

By Lin Chia-nan  /  Staff reporter

A model of Formosat-5, the first satellite designed and manufactured in Taiwan, is shown at a news conference held by the Ministry of Science and Technology in Taipei on Feb. 23 last year.

Photo: Chien Jung-fong, Taipei Times

Improving satellite calibration and vibration reduction techniques are key to the nation’s development of space technology, Minister of Science and Technology Chen Liang-gee (陳良基) said on Thursday, after the Control Yuan found flaws in the initial calibration of Formosat-5.

The nation’s first domestically developed satellite, Formosat-5 was launched from the US on Aug. 25, 2017.

After the satellite transmitted blurry images tainted with light spots in September 2017, the ministry spent nearly six months recalibrating its imaging device, finally enabling it to transmit images at its default resolution — 2m for black-and-white images and 4m for colored ones — and it became commercially operational in September last year.

An investigative report on the satellite’s initial imaging problem has been completed, the Control Yuan said in a press release on Wednesday.

The ministry’s subsidiary agency, the National Space Organization (NSPO), was found to have made an error when testing a collimator used to calibrate the satellite’s remote sensing instrument, the Control Yuan said.

The NSPO purchased the collimator from US firm Optical Mechanics Inc for about NT$82.1 million (US$2.66 million at the current exchange rate), but the device was not calibrated when it changed hands, it said.

After the collimator’s warranty period ended, NSPO members had to calibrate it on their own as its US maker refused to visit Taiwan to give them instructions, the Control Yuan said, adding that its calibration was not verified by any internal or external agencies.

Chen said that the ministry would improve its collimator calibration techniques, as they are crucial for developing remote sensing satellites, a key part of the nation’s third space technology program, which started this year and runs until 2028.

It would also find international agencies to verify its calibration procedure for new satellites, he said, adding that improved vibration reduction techniques are important for satellite delivery.

The nation has limited experience in developing satellites, so it is hard to demand that domestic space scientists achieve perfection at this stage, he said.

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