Taiwan would seek to use Japan’s satellite services until its newest satellite, the FORMOSAT-5, can be launched later this year, Minister of Science and Technology Yang Hung-duen (楊弘敦) said on Wednesday.
Yang told a meeting of the legislature’s Education and Culture Committee that the launch of FORMOSAT-5 had been delayed because of a failed rocket test in June last year by the US company commissioned to launch the satellite.
FORMOSAT-5 will not be launched until about October, Yang said, although the National Applied Research Laboratories (NARL) had said the launch would take place last month.
Until FORMOSAT-5 is put into service, Taiwan would rely on Japan for satellite services, Yang said.
FORMOSAT-5 was scheduled to be launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California in the first quarter, to replace FORMOSAT-2, which has been conducting remote sensing imaging since May 2004.
However, the rocket test failure by SpaceX — the US company commissioned to launch FORMOSAT-5 — delayed its services to all its customers, including NARL.
NARL said the postponement would not have been a problem had another of the four reaction wheels on FORMOSAT-2 not failed on Tuesday last week.
With two of its reaction wheels malfunctioning, FORMOSAT-2 has not been able to perform its imaging tasks and its movements cannot be accurately controlled, said NARL, which is in charge of Taiwan’s space program.
The reaction wheels are used primarily for attitude control and are particularly useful when a spacecraft must make very small adjustments that are required, for example, to keep a telescope pointed at a star.
FORMOSAT-5, which is to carry a payload including an optical remote sensing instrument designed and developed in Taiwan, was designed to take over the remote sensing imaging mission of FORMOSAT-2.
Since Taiwan began its space program in 1991, it has sent three satellites into space.
FORMOSAT-1 was decommissioned in 2004, while FORMOSAT-2 and the weather satellite FORMOSAT-3 remain in orbit.
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