A rendering of the  FormoSat-7 satellites in orbit. Photo: Handout
A rendering of the FormoSat-7 satellites in orbit. Photo: Handout

The FormoSat-7, the second satellite constellation jointly developed by Taiwan and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, could be launched from Kennedy Space Center by the end of this year or early 2019. The satellites are scheduled to go into space aboard the Falcon Heavy rocket from Elon Musk’s Space X, according to the island’s Central News Agency.

The FormoSat-7 will replace the FormoSat-3 with a slew of state-of-the-art instruments and equipment to collect meteorological and ionospheric data as well as boasting the “most accurate and stable thermometers in space,” according to Taiwan’s National Space Organization.

The Taiwanese Space Administration, which poured some NT$3.2 billion (US$104 million) into the joint project, said the new satellites will be a boost to the island’s weather forecasting system. They will also improve climate observation, in particular in predicting typhoon paths and torrential rains. The new satellites will serve no military purposes.

The Falcon Heavy rocket launched from the Kennedy Space Center. Photo: SpaceX

But Space X has notified Taiwan that it will need more time to test its rocket “to guarantee a prefect mission,” which could delay the launch date to the end of 2018 or even into next year.

The satellites were originally slated to be launched in April of this year.

The Formosat-7 was designed to comprise two sets of satellites. However the second set of seven units was canceled in October 2017 due to problems with the US budget.

Launched on April 15, 2006, the FormoSat-3 was the first Taiwan-US space collaboration program and the world’s first weather satellite constellation.

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