The Executive Yuan has agreed to allocate a budget of NT$25.9 billion (US$843.48 million) to a third space program proposed by the Ministry of Science and Technology, Premier William Lai (賴清德) said yesterday, adding that he expects the nation to become increasingly independent in developing space technology.
Over the next decade, the ministry should work toward enhancing its research of space technology and apply the results to assist in industrial development, as well as improving different aspects of life, he said.
Lai made the remarks at the ministry’s National Space Organization (NSPO) in the Hsinchu Science Park while examining the agency’s preparations to transport the Formosat-7 satellite constellation to the US.
Formosat-7 — which is part of the ministry’s second space program and developed in collaboration with the US — is comprised of six microsatellites and was designed to take over the mission of collecting weather data from the Formosat-3 constellation, which has been in operation for 12 years, the agency said.
Formosat-7 is expected to collect two to three times more data than Formosat-3, while its data downloads would be six times faster, NSPO Director-General Lin Chun-liang (林俊良) said.
While Lai said that Formosat-7 would be delivered to the US at the end of next month, agency officials appeared more reserved about its launch schedule, which has been postponed several times.
The satellite cluster will most likely be launched next year, Lin said, adding that the actual date has yet to be determined.
As Formosat-7’s launch is managed by the US Air Force and US company SpaceX, the NSPO can only wait for notification two months prior to launch, he said.
The US has been willing to work with Taiwan to develop the Formosat-3 and Formosat-7 programs because Taiwanese scientists have demonstrated their competence in integrating various systems to control satellites, Minister of Science and Technology Chen Liang-gee (陳良基) said, adding that Formosat-7 would be operated by the NSPO.
Following the first two space programs — the first running from 1991 to 2006 and the second from 2004 to the end of this year — the nation has proved its preliminary ability to design a satellite, he said.
The third space program, which is scheduled to start next year and run until 2028, is to focus on satellite development by Taiwanese scientists, with the NSPO planning to launch nine satellites over the next decade, Lin said, but added that the initial development process might take more time.
While the Executive Yuan has approved funding for the third space program, the details of the program have not been finalized, Chen said, adding that the entire program would be announced before the end of the year.
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