Taiwan achieves successful rocket launch
ROC Central News Agency
By Jenny W. Hsu
Taipei, May 10 (CNA) The National Space Organization (NSPO) touted Monday the recent launch of Sounding Rocket VII as a success, describing it as a major breakthrough in Taiwan's space exploration efforts.
The rocket was launched at 7: 50 p.m. May 5 from the Jioupeng military base in southern Taiwan's Pingtung County after a string of delays since its original launch date of November 2008.
During its 500 second-plus mission, the rocket was able to retrieve valuable information on changes in the ionosphere over the Taiwan region as well as the structure and production mechanism of plasma irregularities in the ionosphere.
The data, said NSPO Systems Engineering Director Chen Yen-sen, is crucial for improving Taiwan's global positioning system (GPS) and telecommunication infrastructures such as digital television and cell phone reception.
One of Sounding Rocket VII's most notable breakthroughs is its ability to carry the largest payload ever in Taiwan's space program. The payload for the May 5 flight included a retarding potential analyzer, a Langmuir probe, a spectmeter, a GPS system and two ion traps.
Moreover, this was also the first time that such a rocket has been able to simultaneously co-conduct scientific experiments with Formosat-3, a satellite operated with Taiwanese and U.S. collaboration, to measure plasma density and ion irregularities in the ionosphere.
The rocket also made a record flight altitude of 287 km into space, said Chen, who added that in addition, it was the first time that high school students had been invited to participate in the project.
He described the ultimate goal of Taiwan's rocket program as being aimed at enhancing the country's self-reliance in terms of its space exploration program such as launching its own satellite, possibly in three to four years based on current abilities.
Meanwhile, Chu Yen-hsyang, a professor at National Central University's Graduate Institute of Space Science, said the cost of the Sounding Record VII project, including building the actual rocket, was over NT$70 million (US$2.21 million).
"It was definitely money well-spent. This mission furthered our understanding of the space above Taiwan as well as helped us to know what we can do to overcome future telecommunication-related disturbances," he said.
Taiwan has launched six rockets between 1998 and 2007, and the NSPO estimates that the next launch will take place in 2012.
The project was the result of collaboration among National Central University, the NSPO and the Chung Shan Institute of Science and Technology.
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