Wed, Aug 07, 2019 - Page 3 News List

Satellite image deal severed after China link found

HIGH THRESHOLD:A Taiwanese firm was found to be getting its images from a Chinese firm, as only Zhuhai-1 is capable of meeting the requirements

By Lin Chia-nan  /  Staff reporter

Council of Agriculture Deputy Minister Chen Junne-jih attends a news conference in Taipei yesterday in response to public concerns over the ministry’s purchase of satellite images taken by Chinese commercial satellites.

Photo: CNA

The Council of Agriculture last month terminated a contract with a Taiwanese satellite image supplier after finding that its images were sourced from a China-based firm, a council official said yesterday, after local media raised information security concerns.

The council’s Agricultural Research Institute in May opened bidding to purchase hyperspectral satellite images, which are to be used to monitor crop growth and improve supply and demand.

The only Taiwanese firm that tendered a bid won it for NT$9.9 million (US$314,186), the Chinese-language Apple Daily reported yesterday.

However, only China’s Zhuhai-1 remote sensing satellite is able to satisfy the institute’s requirements for image resolution better than 10m with more than 30 wavebands, it said.

The images were actually to be supplied by a firm named Orbita Aerospace Science and Technology Co based in China’s Guangdong Province, it said, questioning the government’s resolve to develop its own space technology.

Council Deputy Minister Chen Junne-jih (陳駿季) told a news conference that officials terminated the deal on July 22 after finding it to be problematic.

There would be no penalty for breach of contract, given that it was terminated before the firm started to honor it, he said.

The bidding project aimed to purchase images taken by “commercial” satellites, while image analysis would be carried out by the institute, so there is no risk of leaking secure information, he said.

The Executive Yuan is to publish guidelines for blocking information and communication products that might jeopardize national security, while the council would set up clearer guidelines to prevent similarly controversial deals, Chen said.

Developing hyperspectral cameras for satellites involves high technical thresholds, and only the US and China are known to have the ability, National Space Organization Deputy Director-General Yu Shiann-jen (余憲政) said.

Taiwan still has a long way to go before it can autonomously develop such cameras, but it several years ago developed one for an aircraft, which is currently being tested, Yu added.

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