Taiwan has long conducted space-related activities using foreign space data and has developed international partnerships in various fields . Development of rockets for launching satellites had not been their core area of research and investments at least during late 1980s and 1990s. They established the National Space Organization, NSPO, in 2005 (formerly known as the National Space Programme Office established in1991) which is the civilian space agency of Taiwan. It has developed a successful sounding rocket programme and has undertaken few launches of these rockets. Since 1998, the launch of Sounding Rocket No.1, NSPO has launched rockets six times. These launches were meant for the purposes of conducting the physical experiments on atmospheric airglow, ionosphere, etc. They also had relevance for flight validations of technologies such as GPS, magnetometer, etc. NSPO’s second-phased aerospace technology development programme aims at suborbital measurements. Such measurements are also expected to enhance the development of the aerospace technology’s civilian application.
Taiwan is yet to develop a workable space launch booster (launcher). There are some indications that they have plans of testing its first Satellite Launch Vehicle (SLV) to put around 50 kg payload into LEO. No specific information is available in this regard. Probably, this could take few more years to happen. However, understanding China’s apprehensions about these issues, Taiwan may not be keen to divulge much information in this regard.
The first satellite for Taiwan, a low-Earth-orbit scientific experimental satellite called FORMOSAT-1(formerly known as ROCSAT-1), was launched by the USA on January 27,1999. The first remote sensing satellite developed by National Space Organization (NSPO), FORMOSAT-2, was successfully launched on May 21,2004. For its ‘FORMOSAT-3 Programme’, Taiwan has collaborated with the USA. This project is aimed at developing advanced technology for the real-time monitoring of the global climate. This project is also known as Constellation Observing System for Meteorology, Ionosphere and Climate (COSMIC). For this purpose, six micro-satellites are placed into six different orbits at 700-800 Km. These satellites orbit around the Earth and form a low-Earth-orbit constellation to receive signals transmitted by the 24 US GPS satellites. This project was successfully launched
during Apr 2006 and with this ended the First Phase Space Programme (1991-2006) devised by Taiwan. The Second Phase Space Programme (2004-2018) is about the Formosat-5 Programme, the first Remote Sensing Programme. Here the aim is on building up the capabilities for independent development of spacecraft and payload instruments.14
For almost two decades, Taiwan is systematically expanding its space programme and space industry. Probably, geopolitical compulsions are responsible for an overall slow growth of the Taiwan’s space agenda. China appears to be not keen for Taiwan to develop its own programme and influences foreign states not to cooperate with Taiwan on this issue. However, in recent past, NASA is found interacting with Taiwan on various projects. Also, ESA and Japan have interest in collaborating with Taiwan on various issues including disaster warning and management. All this could help the growth of Taiwan’s space programme probably much faster than in the past.