INTERVIEW/Taiwan eyeing business opportunities in space industry

07/17/2021 06:56 PM
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One of the satellites in the FormoSat-7 space project, which was launched in June 2019. Photo courtesy of National Space Organization
One of the satellites in the FormoSat-7 space project, which was launched in June 2019. Photo courtesy of National Space Organization

Taipei, July 17 (CNA) Taiwan is stepping up efforts to tap into the global aerospace market, with a particular focus on developing a specific kind of satellite, Science and Technology Minister Wu Tsung-tsong (吳政忠) told CNA recently.

Among different market segments, he said, those related to the development of low earth orbit (LEO) satellites are particularly worth pursuing for Taiwan.

"It is an opportunity Taiwan definitely cannot afford to miss," Wu said in an exclusive interview on July 6, referring to the satellites that have an orbit at less than 2,000 kilometers above Earth.

Those satellites, often designed in constellations, have a shorter life cycle -- between two to four years -- compared with larger ones and therefore offer more of an opportunity for Taiwanese businesses, he said.

Science and Technology Minister Wu Tsung-tsong. CNA photo July 17, 2021
Science and Technology Minister Wu Tsung-tsong. CNA photo July 17, 2021

In addition, Wu said, LEO satellites are crucial to the development of the Internet of Things (IoT), which has been pursued by global technology and communications heavyweights such as SpaceX, Amazon and OneWeb.

That's because the relatively inexpensive LEO communication satellites can be launched in large enough numbers to economically provide sufficient bandwidth for the data transmission required by the IoT.

Thus, a sector in which there will be high demand no longer requires highly advanced technology that only the world's superpowers can afford, but has a relatively low market threshold that countries like Taiwan can explore, Wu said.

Taiwan eventually hopes to manufacture its own LEO satellites. The government launched a four-year, NT$4 billion (US$145 million) project this year with the aim of launching its first LEO communications satellite in 2025.

In the meantime, Taiwan could first capitalize on its years of experiences as an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) to become part of the LEO satellite supply chain, said Yu Shiann-jeng (余憲政), deputy director-general of Taiwan's National Space Organization.

Around a dozen Taiwanese companies -- including Microelectronics Technology Inc., WIN Semiconductors Corp. and Kinpo Electronics, Inc. -- are currently providing components and ground-based reception equipment for SpaceX, for instance.

With maturer technology and experience in the future, Taiwanese companies could extend their reach to provide more comprehensive modules with better added value, Yu said.

Workers test components of Taiwan
Workers test components of Taiwan's satellites at the National Space Organization. Photo courtesy of the organization

Also expected to help is a space development promotion act that was enacted at the end of May.

The act, which will regulate the country's space-based activities, shows the world Taiwan's ambition to carve out its own niche in the space economy, according to Wu.

It covers four areas -- setting principles of development that are aligned with international space laws, regulating space-based activities to ensure safety, establishing rocket launch sites, and promoting industrial development.

Under the act, MOST is designated as the competent authority and will establish a dedicated agency to deal with related affairs.

(By Su Ssu-yun and Lee Hsin-Yin)

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