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Taiwan hoping for further cooperation with U.S. in space exploration

2018/08/20 16:50:36

Taipei, Aug. 20 (CNA) President Tsai Ing-wen's (蔡英文) visit to the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) space center in Houston, Texas Saturday has sparked hope in Taiwan for further collaboration with the United States in the field of space exploration.

Asked if Tsai's visit will heat up Taiwan-U.S. cooperation in space observation, National Space Organization (NSPO) Deputy Director-General Yu Shiann-jeng (余憲政) told CNA Monday that he naturally hopes the cooperative relations will become more and more strong.

He hopes for progress "in both the intensity of cooperation and the depth of the issues involved," Yu said.

The United States has been devoted to the exploration of outer space in recent years, the space expert said, although such missions are highly expensive and are mostly undertaken through international collaboration.

Taiwan also wants to contribute to the work of space exploration, if it can have international collaboration and NASA's guidance, Yu said.

NASA is an independent agency under the executive branch of the U.S.'s federal government that is responsible for the civilian space program, as well as aeronautics and aerospace research. Its Johnson Space Center in Houston is home to the U.S.'s astronaut corps, the International Space Station mission operations, the Orion spacecraft program, and a host of future space developments.

Taiwan and the U.S. have maintained long-standing cooperation in satellite development and weather data analysis, starting with the FormoSat-3/COSMIC satellite constellation program. COSMIC is the abbreviation of the constellation observing system for meteorology, ionosphere and climate.

At some point between late this year and early next year, the second satellite constellation jointly developed by Taiwan and the U.S., named FormoSat-7/COSMIC-2, could be launched. The main payloads and observation equipment on those satellites were all provided by the NASA, according to the NSPO.

The FormoSat-7 satellite constellation will generate three to four times the volume of data generated by FormoSat-3 and will greatly increase the amount of low-latitude atmospheric and ionospheric data available.

That data will be incorporated into Taiwan's Central Weather Bureau data and forecast system to help improve the accuracy of weather forecasting and climate observation, the NSPO said.

NASA's payloads on FormoSat-7 will mainly be used for the observation of "space weather" and the prediction of the ionosphere's possible impact on satellite communication, the center said.

Tsai's tour of the Houston space center was part of her 27-hour stopover on her way home from state visits to Belize and Paraguay and makes her the first Taiwanese president to visit a U.S. federal agency during a transit stop.

Asked about the landmark tour, Huang Chieh-cheng (黃介正), an assistant professor at the Graduate Institute of International Affairs and Strategic Studies of Tamkang University, hailed it as "meaningful progress" in Taiwan-U.S. relations.

Lately, Taiwan-friendly voices in the U.S. Congress have been louder than before, Huang said.

By allowing Tsai to visit a facility of NASA, which he pointed out plays a much bigger role in science than politics, the U.S. administration not only satisfied the Taiwan-friendly groups in Congress but also "gave Taiwan a very big seal of approval" for its democratic development, the scholar contended.

Tsai is expected to arrive back in Taiwan at 11:30 p.m. Monday.

(By Liao Yu-yang, Elaine Hou and Elizabeth Hsu)
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