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Taiwan to Build Rocket Launch Site

Image credits: focustaiwan.tw

The Head of the National Space Organisation (NSO) stated that the Taiwanese government plans to build a rocket launch site for the long-term development of the country’s space programme. The plans were disclosed after the Taiwan-based commercial rocket company sought and gained approval to launch its first domestically built rocket in Australia.

According to a statement, the company will conduct a test flight of its Hapith I — a 10m, two-stage, sub-orbital science rocket — from the Whalers Way Orbital Launch Complex, which is operated by Southern Launch. The Head of NSO said that the company had been scheduled to launch the Hapith I rocket at a site in Nantian Village, Taitung County, Taiwan, but the plan was suspended because of legal disputes.

The NSO then came up with a plan for the company to launch its research rocket at a site in southern Pingtung’s Mudan Township, but before the proposal could be approved, the company turned to Australia and obtained approval there.

Taiwan’s government, however, has a long term plan to build a rocket launch site. Taiwan’s Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) last year released a set of security guidelines for the launch of research rockets.

According to the guidelines, the site in Mudan Township has been designated as a short term project for rocket launches, but that plan has not yet been finalised, as negotiations with the residents there are still in progress. The NSO’s ultimate goal is to build a permanent national rocket launch site for the long term development of the nation’s space programme.

The planning for that launch site is expected to begin next year, after the expected passage of a draft bill on the country’s future space development, which was put forth by MOST. If the bill is passed, it will allow for the upgrade of the NSO to an independent agency directly under the science and technology ministry, noting that currently, it is one of eight research centres under MOST’s National Applied Research Laboratories.

According to a page, the primary focus of Taiwan’s Long-term National Space Technology Development Programme is satellite development. Having laid the foundation for indigenous space technology in the first and second phases of the programme, 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 programme 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.

As reported by OpenGov Asia, 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.

The space development promotion act 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.

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