FORMOSAT-5 carries hope of Taiwan's space technology development

"FORMOSAT-5 is probably not the best satellite in the world, but it is a proof that the country is growing its technology," says an official from the NSPO

Science and Technology Minister Chen Liang-gee (陳良基) points at an image taken by FORMOSAT-5

Science and Technology Minister Chen Liang-gee (陳良基) points at an image taken by FORMOSAT-5 (By Central News Agency)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — As a member of the team that built FORMOSAT-5, the first remote sensing satellite entirely made in Taiwan, Chen Wei-chun (陳維鈞), director of the Integration & Test Division of Taiwan’s National Space Organization (NSPO), said the country’s space technology was already “world-class,” Central News Agency reported.

After six years of research and development and with a budget of NT$5.6 billion, FORMOSAT-5, carried by the Falcon 9 rocket from Space X, Tesla founder Elon Musk’s space venture, was launched in August 2017 from the Vandenberg Air Force Space in the U.S.

The NSPO team, led by Science and Technology Minister Chen Liang-gee (陳良基), met with President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) at the Presidential Office on Friday. The president praised FORMOSAT-5 as a satellite with “the most Taiwanese spirit in the universe.”

In addition, President Tsai urged the NSPO to continue their space program so that Taiwan’s industries could become suppliers in the international market providing for the need of space technology.

However, the project of FORMOSAT-5 did not always go smoothly. Shortly after its launch into space, the images taken by the satellite were found containing speckles of light. The organization explained the problem was one of focus.

Chen told the CNA that the media coverage of the incident, particularly as reports describing the project as a failure and the satellite as a piece of space junk, really damaged the morale of the team.

However, after some make-up procedures and adjustments, the quality of the satellite images was significantly improved last November. FORMOSAT-5 is now scheduled to enter service in September.

Similar to the situation of FORMOSAT-2, a project the country did in cooperation with France, images taken from FORMOSAT-5 would have to be processed before being handed over to clients, said Yu Shiann-jeng (余憲政), deputy director-general of the NSPO.

Yu emphasized that the process was not like photos being modified via Photoshop. Instead, it relied on the original information of images to restore the image resolution correctly, added Yu.

Chang Ho-pen (張和本), director of the FORMOSAT-5 project, told CNA that the satellite demonstrated Taiwan’s ability to build a satellite, thus pushing forward the development of space technology-related industries in the country.

Yu also said that “there would be no future for Taiwan” if the country continued to rely on other countries’ space technology.

"FORMOSAT-5 is probably not the best satellite in the world, but it is a proof that the country is growing its technology," added Yu.