SpaceX Falcon 1e To Launch Taiwan’s Formosat-5 Craft

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PARIS — Taiwan’s Formosat-5 optical Earth observation satellite will be launched aboard a Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) Falcon 1e rocket in late 2013 or early 2014 under a contract SpaceX announced June 14.

Contract details were not announced, but Taiwan’s National Space Program Office (NSPO) had set a price ceiling for bidders of 871.5 million Taiwan dollars ($27 million) to place the 525-kilogram Formosat-5 into a 720-kilometer, sun-synchronous orbit inclined 98.28 degrees relative to the equator.

NSPO also had told prospective launch-service providers to agree to include a free reflight option in the contract with a maximum additional charge of 178.5 million Taiwan dollars.

Formosat-5, which is more than two years behind its original schedule, is designed to demonstrate Taiwan’s domestic industrial capacity in satellite construction. Taiwan and NSPO engineers have been gradually acquiring satellite expertise over a decade through international collaborations on the Formosat-1, Formosat-2 and Formosat-3 spacecraft. These satellites were built in partnerships with Northrop Grumman of the United States, Astrium Satellites of Europe and Orbital Sciences of the United States, respectively.

NSPO is the prime contractor for Formosat-5, which is expected to carry an optical imager with a ground resolution of 2 meters in black-and-white mode and 4 meters in near-infrared mode. The imager will have a 24-kilometer swath width and will be able to swivel up to 45 degrees in either direction off nadir.

Imagery will be sent to ground controllers via an X-band link with a throughput of 150 megabits per second.

Hawthorne, Calif.-based SpaceX plans to launch Formosat-5 from its Omelek Island spaceport located at Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific Ocean, about 3,900 kilometers southwest of Honolulu.