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2004-05-20 18:29:02

    Los Angeles, May 19 (CNA) The Republic of China's second satellite -- ROCSAT-2 -- is expected to be successfully launched into orbit from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Thursday morning, a ranking official of the ROC Cabinet-level National Science Council (NSC) said Wednesday in California.

    NSC Vice Chairman Hsieh Ching-jyh, who is currently on the air force base supervising preparations for the liftoff, said that the working team began the countdown of the last 17 hours prior to the launch of the ROCSAT-2 at 6 p.m. May 19 local time, with the launch time set at 10:47 a.m. Thursday (1:47 a.m. Taipei time).

    Hsieh noted that Thursday's successful launch of the ROCSAT-2 will not only mark a new milestone in Taiwan's scientific development and space research but is also expected to bring more business opportunities for the company in charge of the launch mission.

    Meanwhile, Chen Cheng-hsing, the ROCSAT-2 project manager, said that the working team, comprising 20 engineers, is now making last-stage preparations for the liftoff of the satellite, which was airlifted to Los Angeles in early December by Taiwan's largest air carrier -- China Airlines.

    The launch has been delayed several times because of circuitry problems in the liftoff rocket or concerns over weather and personnel conditions.

    Taiwan launched its first satellite -- ROCSAT-1 -- in 1999. The second satellite, which carries a price tag of NT$4.7 billion (US$141.99 million) , is different from its predecessor in that it will have practical applications involving remote-sensing technology to help upgrade Taiwan's capability in disaster prevention, land mapping and environmental monitoring.

    The ROCSAT-2 can take pictures of objects on the ground as small as two meters across, and the satellite is designed to orbit the earth 14 times a day, including two passes over Taiwan, at 891 kilometers above the earth.

    In addition to its remote sensing mission, the ROCSAT-2 has the scientific mission of investigating various lighting phenomena in the upper atmosphere.

    The ROC government launched a 15-year space technology development plan in 1991. In its initial stage, the NSPO is concentrating on ROCSAT, which consists of three different satellite ventures.

    The ROCSAT-1 was built by the U.S. company TRW and successfully launched in 1999 from Cape Canaveral, Florida, while ROCSAT-3 is an ROC-U.S. joint venture that will be launched in 2005. Some components of these satellites will be manufactured in Taiwan with technology transfers from foreign contractors.

(By Chu Lu-shng & Luis Huang)


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