Bad weather stops HAPITH-1 rocket launch

HEADACHES::While developer TiSPACE is optimistic about rescheduling a launch, it has yet to resolve issues about its launch site for which it has been fined NT$400,000

By Jake Chung  /  Staff writer, with CNA

Fri, Feb 14, 2020 - Page 2

Inclement weather yesterday prevented the launch of the HAPITH-1, the nation’s first domestically built rocket, from a launchpad in Taitung County’s Nantian Village (南田).

Many rocket enthusiasts had gathered in the village to watch the launch between 6am and 7am, said its developer, Taiwan Innovative Space Inc (TiSPACE).

The rocket was expected to reach an altitude of 250km, breaking the world record of 120km for rockets with a hybrid-propellant engine, TiSPACE said.

However, it continued to rain after 6am, the company said, adding that on-site engineers used balloons to gauge wind speed and direction every 15 minutes, but neither proved satisfactory.

While the company started the rocket’s engine at 6:56am, it was not able to push through with the planned launch.

TiSPACE president Chen Yen-sen (陳彥升) said later yesterday that it had rained throughout the night before the test launch and the wind shear was too strong.

Despite the aborted launch, the company was able to obtain useful data that it can use to fine-tune calibrations and settings, Chen said.

The road to development for aerospace companies is fraught with difficulties, but the company will continue to persevere in hopes of achieving the capability to launch satellites from Taiwan, he said.

“I saw the crowd that came out to view the test launch and I am aware of their expectations,” Chen said, adding that the company has scheduled another launch in one and a half or two months from now.

Nantian Village Warden Kao Fu-yuan (高富源) said that the local government was supportive of the launch, and it was regrettable that it had to be canceled because of inclement weather.

The HAPITH-1 was originally scheduled to launch on Dec. 27 last year, but it was postponed due to controversy over land use and the rights of Paiwan Aboriginal residents over it.

To encourage the development of the domestic space industry, the Ministry of Science and Technology on Jan. 14 convened a meeting of concerned parties to help find a solution, while asking the company to complete required procedures, it said in a statement on Tuesday.

While the National Space Organization (NSPO) said it had commissioned TiSPACE to build and launch a rocket, it did not require the company to build a launch site, as the company could consider renting existing launch sites or temporarily building a launchpad, the National Applied Research Laboratories, which oversees the NSPO, said in separate statement on Tuesday.

Officials hope the company would succeed in its mission, which would fill a missing piece in the nation’s space technology development, but they do not want to get involved in the company’s problems, a source familiar with the matter said on condition of anonymity.

The Taitung County Government said in a press release yesterday that TiSPACE did not file the required application before building the launchpad on a private property, which is Aboriginal domain, and has been fined NT$400,000.

The company is required to demolish the launch site or apply to legally alter its land use, it added.

Additional reporting by Lin Chia-nan