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Taiwan Seeks Business Opportunities in Space Industry

Image source: focustaiwan.tw

Taiwan is stepping up efforts to tap into the global aerospace market, with a particular focus on developing a specific kind of satellite. Among different market segments, those related to the development of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites are particularly worth pursuing for Taiwan. Those satellites, often designed in constellations, have a shorter life cycle — between two to four years, compared with larger ones and therefore offer more of an opportunity for Taiwanese businesses.

In addition, LEO satellites are crucial to the development of the Internet of Things (IoT), which has been pursued by global technology and communications heavyweights. That is because the relatively inexpensive LEO communication satellites can be launched in large enough numbers to economically provide sufficient bandwidth for the data transmission required by the IoT.

Thus, a sector in which there will be high demand no longer requires highly advanced technology that only the world’s superpowers can afford but has a relatively low market threshold that countries like Taiwan can explore. Taiwan eventually hopes to manufacture its own LEO satellites. The government launched a four-year, NT$4 billion (US$145 million) project this year intending to launch its first LEO communications satellite in 2025.

In the meantime, Taiwan could first capitalize on its years of experience as an Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) to become part of the LEO satellite supply chain. Around a dozen, Taiwanese tech companies are currently providing components and ground-based reception equipment for SpaceX, for instance. With maturer technology and experience in the future, Taiwanese companies could extend their reach to provide more comprehensive modules with more added value.

The space development promotion act that was enacted at the end of May is expected to help. The act, which will regulate the country’s space-based activities, shows the world Taiwan’s ambition to carve out its own niche in the space economy.

The act covers four areas — setting principles of development that are aligned with international space laws, regulating space-based activities to ensure safety, establishing rocket launch sites, and promoting industrial development. Under the act, Taiwan’s Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) is designated as the competent authority and will establish a dedicated agency to deal with related affairs.

According to a page, the primary focus of Taiwan’s Long-term National Space Technology Development Program is satellite development. Having laid the foundation for indigenous space technology in the first and second phases of the program, the nation is now launching the third phase, which will run from 2019 to 2028.

The programme aims to push domestic aerospace technology to new heights and meet the challenges of cutting-edge space missions. At the same time, the program also aims to extend and spread the benefits of the aerospace technology industry, nurture space technology talent, and build an aerospace industry supply chain of Taiwan’s own.

The first phase of the programme began with fostering the talent and skills needed to build an organisation dedicated to the development of aerospace technology. The first phase also saw the successful completion of the FORMOSAT-1, 2 and 3 missions. The FORMOSAT-3 program put into orbit Taiwan’s first weather satellite constellation comprised of six micro-satellites. Altogether, eight satellites dedicated variously to remote sensing and the conduct of scientific experiments were operated during the first phase of the program.

The second phase was largely dedicated to the FORMOSAT-5 and 7 programs, with FORMOSAT-5 being Taiwan’s first domestically researched and produced high-resolution remote-sensing satellite. An emphasis on academic research and industry development led to across-the-board improvements in Taiwan’s aerospace technology development capabilities.

The goal of the third phase of the program is to launch one satellite per year to serve as a high-tech tool for national security and environmental monitoring. In cases of natural disasters, these satellites will be able to provide real-time imagery and rapidly track safety conditions on the ground and changes to the environment. Deforestation, land subsidence, and the scale and scope of natural disasters can also be monitored accurately. Finally, projects undertaken in the third phase will serve as a springboard for the promotion of deep-space exploration and scientific innovation.

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