TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – FORMOSAT-7, a constellation of six satellites jointly built by Taiwan and the U.S., began the deployment of its first satellite on July 22 and is expected to start providing meteorological images and data in January 2020, the Liberty Times reports.
FORMOSAT-7 was launched into space on June 25, and has since passed a 3-week inspection of sub-systems including solar panels, jet propulsion, communication systems as well as a week-long instrument payload inspection. It successfully sent its first batch of data back to Earth on July 16, marking the completion of the first phase of preparation.
The satellite constellation is currently orbiting at a height of 720 kilometers. During the second phase of preparation, the six satellites will be distributed evenly into a lower orbit.
The National Space Organization (NSPO) explained that the first satellite to descend will do so via the built-in jet propulsion system powered by its fuel. After approximately 200 propulsions in the opposite direction, the satellite will drop from 720 to 550 kilometers above the Earth's surface.
According to the NSPO’s calculations, the first satellite will drift away from its counterparts at a rate of .55 degrees per day due to the effect of our planet's oblate gravitational field. After 108 days, the deviation will increase to roughly 60 degrees, at which point the second satellite will then begin its descent into the lower orbit, ensuring that all six are distributed evenly.
The deployment of all six of FORMOSAT-7's satellites will take about 18 months. NSPO expects the first few satellites to start generating meteorological data on a regular basis from January of next year.