A small scientific satellite jointly developed by National Central University (NCU) and institutions in the US, India and Singapore is to be launched in August, an NCU professor said yesterday.
The INSPIRESat-1 microsatellite, which weighs about 8.6kg, was developed under the International Satellite Program in Research and Education (INSPIRE) — a consortium of universities with space science departments.
The consortium is spearheaded by the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado Boulder and it also involves the Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology, Nanyang Technological University of Singapore and NCU, among other participants.
The satellite is to be launched by India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle on a rideshare mission in August, NCU Department of Space Science and Engineering professor Loren Chang (張起維) said.
As the launch also includes an Indian synthetic aperture radar imaging satellite, the cost is being covered by the Indian Space Research Organization, Chang said, adding that the mission has been delayed from last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Taiwan and India do not officially cooperate in space technology, and all of the satellites developed by Taiwan over the past three decades have been launched by US rocket suppliers.
Collaborating with the Indian institute has been a success and the department is mulling signing a cooperation agreement with the institute, Chang said.
After the university consortium was established in 2015, participants held their first meeting in 2016 at NCU and set up the INSPIRESat-1 mission, he said.
Subsequently, students at the department regularly visited the University of Colorado Boulder to help build the satellite and receive training, he added.
The microsatellite carries a Compact Ionospheric Probe (CIP) developed by NCU for studying the Earth’s dynamic ionosphere, according to a paper authored by Chang and other participants in the project in the journal Advances in Space Research.
The CIP is a miniaturized version of the Advanced Ionospheric Probe developed by department director Chao Chi-kuang (趙吉光), which is operating onboard Taiwan’s Formosat-5, which was launched in 2017.
The other instrument carried by the INSPIRESat-1 is a Dual-zone Aperture X-ray Solar Spectrometer developed by the University of Colorado Boulder for studying highly variable solar X-ray radiation, the paper says.
The microsatellite is to be deployed into a sun-synchronous orbit at an altitude of about 525km, and has a designed mission life of one year and a primary minimum requirement of six months for science operations, it says.
In addition to INSPIRESat-1, NCU is also collaborating on INSPIRESat-6, which is a remote sensing satellite using hyperspectral techniques, Chang said.
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