FormoSat-5 set to officially enter service in September

2018/02/23 23:14:44 fontsize-small fontsize-default fontsize-big
Chen Liang-gee (陳良基)

Chen Liang-gee (陳良基)

Taipei, Feb. 23 (CNA) FormoSat-5, Taiwan's first locally built satellite with remote sensing capabilities, will officially enter into service in September as image resolution issues have improved, Science and Technology Minister Chen Liang-gee (陳良基) said Friday.

"By that time, the third phase of the country's air space development program will also officially start because the FormoSat-5 satellite is now capable of providing clearer images," Chen told President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) at the Presidential Office.

Chen, who oversees the development team of FormoSat-5, presented a collaged cloudless satellite image of Taiwan to Tsai in reporting on the progress in improving the FormoSat-5's image resolution.

When the satellite officially enters service in September, it will begin commercializing the images generated by the FormoSat-5.

The NT$5.6 billion (US$192 million) FormoSat-5 was launched in the United States on Aug. 25, 2017 aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket to capture panchromatic images with a resolution of up to two meters per pixel, and multispectral images with a resolution of four meters per pixel.

Initial photos taken by FormoSat-5 were marred by light spots due to focusing problems, but Chen explained that after adjustments of its components, orbit operating system and image resolution over the past six months, panchromatic images (essentially black and white) captured by it now are clearer and of commercial value.

The United States, Australia, Russia and Japan are interested in purchasing photos and data transmitted back by FormoSat-5, he said.

When the satellite officially enters into service in September, it will also be able to assist in the government's anti-flooding efforts, he said.

According to Chang Ho-pen (張和本), the director of the National Space Organization (NSPO) project to build FormoSat-5, the satellite runs on the same orbit as the sun, circling the Earth every 99 minutes and passing over Taiwan every two days.

It provides high-resolution images and data that are useful for anti-disaster projects, national security, environmental monitoring and academic research, he said.

"After an adjustment of angles and altitude, the fuel the satellite carries is sufficient for it to run on the correct orbit for 10 years," he said.

The satellite has already transmitted 2,300 sets of black and white and color photos captured from around the world, including of Mount Agung on the island of Bali, Indonesia when it erupted on Nov. 21, 2017, and of the wildfires ravaging Ventura County in Southern California on Dec. 4, 2017.

According to Chen, the NSPO, under the leadership of its new chief Lin Chun-liang (林俊良), is now charting its next 10-year air space development plan.

"If everything goes smoothly with the budget, we expect to launch a satellite every year for the next 10 years," he said.

(By Chen Cheng-wei and Flor Wang)

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