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2004-03-31 21:33:58

    Taipei, March 31 (CNA) An official of the Cabinet-level National Science Council (NSC) on Wednesday said he was confident that the nation's second satellite, ROCSAT-2, would be successfully launched on April 10 Taipei time from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

    NSC Vice Chairman Hsieh Ching-jyh made the remarks when he and other officials from the NSC and the National Space Program Office (NSPO) reported on the ROCSAT-2 launch schedule, current status and its contributions to domestic science and technology to a science and information committee at the Legislative Yuan.

    China Airlines, Taiwan's largest carrier is experienced in transporting precision machinery. It airlifted the ROCSAT-2 to Los Angeles in early December.

    But due to circuitry problems in the liftoff rocket, an earthquake in California and other factors, the launch has been delayed several times until it was set at between 1: 47 a.m. and 2:10 a.m. April 10 Taipei time. If the weather is not good that day, it will be delayed until the same time span the following day.

    Legislator Pang Chien-kuo of the opposition People First Party asked the NSC to explain why it has delayed the launch several times, and that if the frequency is higher than for other countries.

    Pang also questioned the compensation issues resulting from the delay, saying that they should be dealt with after the launch according to the terms of the contract.

    Hsieh said that the working team is not just standing idly by in the United States and that from now until the scheduled launch day of April 10, every minute is used to conducted different tests, and if there is any glitch, however small, the launch will be scrubbed.

    However, he said that most of the major tests have been completed, and the NSC is more than 95 percent sure of a successful launch.

    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 said to lead Taiwan into a new era of space research.

    ROCSAT-2 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.

    In addition to its remote sensing mission, 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.

    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 Lilian Wu)


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