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Taiwan shoots for stars, one rocket at a time

Fourth rocket launched from a newly established Zuhai Rocket Launch Site in Pingtung

Tamkang University successfully tests new sounding rocket. (Facebook, TASA)

Tamkang University successfully tests new sounding rocket. (Facebook, TASA)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Under normal circumstances, the two dozen or so college students on a beach in Pingtung County would not be able to fire rockets into the night sky.

Thanks to a new program created by the Taiwan Space Association (TASA), these students have a safe, government-sanctioned rocket launch site to launch "Jessie," a 2.87-meter arrow-shaped rocket. The goal is to collect data relevant to future rocket missions, per PTS.

Taiwan shoots for stars, one rocket at a time
(Facebook, TASA)

The projectile they built is a "sounding rocket" or "rocketsonde," a subclass of rockets that don’t reach the heights necessary to orbit the earth. The term "sound" is nautical in nature, referring to a weighted line used to measure ocean depths or distances.

Tamkang University launched Jessie, the second sounding rocket in its program, at 6:49 a.m. on Monday (Sept. 11) at a remote beach in Zhuhai Village, Pingtung County. The rocket stood 2.87 meters in height with a diameter of 13 centimeters, and weighed 46 kilograms. The flight duration for the rocket was 7 seconds, reaching a flight altitude of 4.32 kilometers.

Both Jessie and a predecessor, TKU-MK1, are single-section rockets using RNX propellant. The main purpose of this flight was to verify the viability of carrying a scientific payload and the lightweight composite arrow design, said Tamkang University Department of Aerospace Engineering Director Hsiao Fu-yuan (蕭富元)

The payload carried aboard this most recent rocket launch included a magnetic field meter, a gauge to measure the strain on the rocket body, and an accelerometer to measure velocity, according to Tamkang University Sounding Rocket Program Director Wang Yi-ren (王怡仁).

Wang said that vibration data will be used as a reference for the development of the next type of "polaris" type rocket in Tamkang University's aerospace system.

Taiwan shoots for stars, one rocket at a time
Tamkang University readies the launch new sounding rocket. (Facebook, TASA)

In order to promote the development of self-developed space technology, Taiwan's government promulgated the Space Development Act in June 2021. This paved the way for supporting measures such as the Zhuhai Rocket Launch Site, which received approval from local residents months later, in November 2021.

The opening of this rocket launch site to universities and the domestic space research community has so far yielded four successful launches: National Yangming Chiaotung University's HTTP-3A S2, National Cheng Kung University's two-stage hybrid rocket, Tamkang University‘s TKU-MK1, and most recently Jessie.