SpaceX has successfully launched FORMOSAT-5, the first fully Taiwan-made Earth observation satellite, from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Aug. 24, nearly four years after its original intended late-2013 launch.
The 475-kilogram satellite was sent into a sun-synchronous, low-Earth orbit 720 kilometers above the Earth, and the mission was declared a success after a ground station in Svalbard, Norway, received the first radio signals from FORMOSAT-5 to confirm its operational condition.
Falcon 9's first stage rocket descended and successfully landed on the autonomous spaceport drone ship, Just Read the Instructions, which will bring it to port for inspection and gauge its condition for reusability.
FORMOSAT-5 is equipped with a remote sensing imager (RSI) and an advanced ionospheric probe (AIP) package to take high-resolution images of location all over the Earth and monitor the behavior of plasma in the ionosphere.
Data from FORMOSAT-5 will be used for various scientific and natural research as well as disaster monitoring and management, with special attention to monitoring possible earthquakes.
"The AIP is an all-in-one plasma sensor to measure ionospheric plasma concentrations, velocities, and temperatures over a wide range of spatial scales. The transient and long-term variations of ionospheric plasma can be monitored as seismic precursors associated with earthquakes," the NSPO explains.
The RIS, on the other hand, can produce 4-meter resolution colored and 2-meter resolution black-and-white images for observation and monitoring.
FORMOSAT-5's RIS function will continue the work of FORMOSAT-2, which was launched in 2004 and has been retired since 2016.
A Very Delayed Success
FORMOSAT-5 is the very first satellite that is fully developed by the NSPO, from key technologies and instruments to the development of its satellite system. It was truly intended to replace FORMOSAT-2 by 2013, but project delays on the part of NSPO affected its original date launch.
However, NSPO was not the only cause of delay because the SpaceX rocket explosion incidents also further delayed the satellite's launch, which is why all involved parties were delighted when the mission was finally declared a success.
Even Capt. Kylie Pracher from the 1st Air and Space Test Squadron, who served as the Air Force launch commander for the mission, commended the smooth launch.
"This was the first satellite manufactured and integrated entirely by Taiwan and it was also the fastest turnaround time between Falcon launches here at Space Launch Complex 4," Captain Pracher said.
Now that FORMOSAT-5 is finally in orbit, SpaceX will prepare for its Sept. 7 Falcon 9 launch at NASA's Kennedy Space Center.
Watch the FORMOSAT-5 mission launch below.