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Taiwan To Temporarily Gain Access To Japanese Satellite Services

As reported by Milly Lin and Elizabeth Hsu of Focus Taiwan News Channel, Taiwan will seek to use Japan’s satellite services until the country’s newest satellite, Formosat-5, can be launched later this year, this according to Science and Technology Minister Yang Hung-duen.

In a hearing of the legislative Education and Culture Committee, Yang said the launch of Formosat-5 has been delayed because of a failed rocket test in June 2015 by the U.S. company commissioned to launch the satellite. Formosat-5, therefore, will not be launched until around October, Yang said, although the National Applied Research Laboratories (NARLabs) had said the launch was postponed from the first quarter of the year to June. Yang said that until Formosat-5 is put into service, Taiwan will rely on Japan for satellite services.

Formosat-5 was scheduled to be launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California in the first quarter of the year to replace Formosat-2, which has been conducting remote sensing imaging since May 2004. However, the rocket test failure by SpaceX, the American company commissioned to launch Formosat-5, delayed that firm’s services to all its customers, including NARLabs. NARLabs said the postponement would not have been a problem had another of the four reaction wheels on Formosat-2 not failed on June 21.

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 NARLabs, 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 will carry a payload including an Optical Remote Sensing Instrument completely designed and developed by Taiwan for the first time, 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.