The American space transport company SpaceX will launch two Taiwan-made satellites into orbit on Jan. 21, Minister of Science and Technology Wu Tsung-tsong (吳政忠) announced on Wednesday.
In remarks to the media, Wu said SpaceX is scheduled to launch the Flying Squirrel, a satellite developed by National Sun Yat-sen University, which will be used to research how plasma in the earth's ionsphere, or upper atmosphere, affects radio waves, which are used for communication in 5G networks.
The other satellite, the Yushan, was produced by New Taipei-based TinFar Electronic Co., and will be used to monitor marine traffic, Wu said.
According to Wu, the planned launch reflects the government's commitment to supporting space-related endeavors, whether in terms of scientific research, talent cultivation or economic benefits in the rapidly expanding space industry.
He also discussed Taiwan's future goals in space, noting that its past experience has mostly been limited to the development of remote sensing and weather satellites.
Going forward, the government will prioritize the development of low earth orbit satellite constellations to support 5G and Beyond 5G networks, in order to meet the growing bandwidth requirements of new technologies, he said.
To achieve these goals, the government this year kicked off a four-year, NT$4 billion (US$142.87 million) project with the aim of launching its first communications satellite in 2025, Wu said.
The project, which is being led by the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Ministry of Economic Affairs, will focus on leveraging Taiwan's strengths in the communications sector to give it a foothold in the space industry.
In coordination with this goal, Wu said, the ministry submitted a draft Space Development Act to the Executive Yuan in December, which will establish a legal framework for the medium to long-term development of the country's space program.
According to Wu, the two satellites will be deployed by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, which company data shows is scheduled to launch from Cape Canaveral in Florida on Jan. 21.