Taiwan’s new satellite on its way

Taiwan’s new satellite on its way

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Taiwan’s second satellite, ROCSAT-2, was taken to CKS International Airport yesterday, wrapped in a nitrogen-filled container weighing more than 2 tonnes. Taiwan’s second satellite, ROCSAT-2, which left the National Space Program Office (NSPO) in Hsinchu yesterday, is expected to be launched on schedule in six weeks from California.

The satellite is designed to orbit the earth 14 times a day, including two passes over Taiwan, 891km above the earth’s surface. Representatives of the Astrium Company of France, the NSPO’s main contractor on the ROCSAT-2 project, said that everything had gone according to plan since the cooperation began in November 1999.

A trailer with cushion facilities took the 750kg satellite, packaged in a 2,100kg container displaying Taiwan’s flag, to CKS International Airport in Taoyuan. NSPO spokesmen said yesterday that a China Airlines Boeing 747 would carry the satellite and related equipment, weighing 14,295kg, directly to Los Angeles today. After the flight of just more than 10 hours, it will take another six hours to move the satellite by truck to Vandenberg Air Force Base.

When it arrives at Vandenberg Air Force Base, the satellite will be thoroughly tested for three days. The satellite will be coupled with a Taurus rocket, a four-stage, ground-launched vehicle, at a launch site operated by Orbital Sciences Corp, and should be ready at least 13 days prior to the launch. Taiwan chose to launch the ROCSAT-2 from the US instead of India, which offered a half-price deal. The launch services in the US cost about NT$ 1.3 billion, according to the NSPO.

Lee Lou-Chuang, president of National Applied Research laboratories and NSPO director, said that putting ROCSAT-2 into orbit would have been impossible had it not been for the integration of governmental resources and private efforts from the space industry. “ROCSAT-2 satellite will be the first to observe rare phenomena like lighting-induced red sprites, upwardly discharging blue jets and gigantic jets,” Lee said. Being different from its predecessor, ROCSAT-1, which was launched in January 1999 and had a strictly scientific purpose, ROCSAT-2 will also have more down-to-earth applications involving remote-sensing technologies.

NSPO officials stressed yesterday that the ROCSAT-2 project, costing NT$4.7 billion in total, would further enhance Taiwan’s abilities to predict natural disas-ters and map state-owned land. It will be able to take clear pictures of objects on the ground as small as 2m across.