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2004-05-21 14:58:31

    Taipei, May 21 (CNA) President Chen Shui-bian pushed a button during a teleconference Friday to activate a connection between the ROCSAT-2 satellite and Taiwan, marking the success of the launch and operations of Taiwan's second satellite.

    The occasion also marked the fact that Taiwan now possesses its own high resolution imaging system which performs real-time remote sensing of the ocean and landmass in the vicinity of Taiwan.

    The ROCSAT-2 satellite was successfully launched into orbit from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 10: 47 a.m. Thursday, local time (1: 47 a.m. Friday, Taipei time) . The satellite then passed over Taiwan for the first time at around 8: 25 a.m. Friday, Taipei time.

    Passing over Taiwan twice daily, ROCSAT-2 will regularly collect information and data for use in several areas, including agriculture and forestry, natural disaster evaluation, environmental monitoring, education, and fostering international cooperation in various scientific research projects and activities. In addition to its remote sensing mission, ROCSAT-2 will also investigate upper atmospheric lighting phenomena.

    Speaking on the historic occasion, President Chen said that ROCSAT-2's successful launch is the greatest present that the National Space Program Office (NSPO) working team has given to him to mark his inauguration for a second four-year term. "The successful launch of the satellite is not only a source of pride for all the 23 million people of Taiwan, but also milestone in Taiwan's globalization," Chen said.

    The president expressed his admiration and appreciation to the members of the NSPO working team and its supervisor, the National Science Council (NSC), for their strenuous and long-term efforts over the past years to make the ambitious project successful, particularly under circumstances where Taiwan has been restricted internationally in many areas.

    According to the NSPO, ROCSAT-2's progress was tracked beginning 18 minutes after its launch from McMurdo Station, a commercial satellite communication service at the South Pole. The satellite was then picked up 63 minutes after the launch by the Swedish Space Corp.'s ground station in Kiruna, northern Sweden.

    ROCSAT-2's launch had 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.

    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.

    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.

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

(By Deborah Kuo)


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