Taipei, Feb. 25 (CNA) Scientists in Taiwan have developed the nation's first space-based Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver, which boasts several improvements over versions obtainable from overseas and can help cut the country's reliance on foreign imports. The first locally developed space-borne GPS receiver, which helps satellites navigate in space, is expected to offer more freedom and independence for space missions, as exports of such products are normally kept under tight control by countries around the world, Chang Guey-shin, who heads Taiwan's National Space Organization (NSPO), said Tuesday. Taiwan has relied on European countries, including Germany and France, for such devices in previous missions and for an upcoming mission set for 2015. The newly developed device is also expected to drive the development of space missions, which used to suffer serious delays due to the time required -- from as long as three to six months -- for Taiwan to gain approval for imports, according to Lin Chen-tsung, an NSPO section chief. The newly developed device will join the FORMOSAT-7 program, a collaboration between the NSPO and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The FORM0SAT-7 program involves a group of 13 weather satellites -- 12 mission-specific orientated satellites and one NSPO-built satellite. The locally developed GPS receiver will be loaded onto the NSPO-built satellite, which is scheduled to be launched in 2018 or 2019. Developed by the NSPO over three years, the device boasts several improvements over existing versions as it is lighter, more energy- efficient and cheaper to build.
In contrast to existing versions, which weigh 2-3 kilograms and cost around NT$20 million (US$658,420) to build, the new device weighs just 0.8 kg and costs NT$6 million to manufacture, said Lin. Other advantages of the new device are greater ease for designers to tweak the functions, taking them only 40 days compared with the 220 days scientists used to need to spend re-designing the chips in the receiver. The new device also takes less time to boot up -- 1.5 minutes compared with 8 minutes in the past, according to Lin.
As Asian counties such as Japan and South Korea are developing their own space-based GPS receivers, Lin said the NSPO will continue to work to make its device lighter, smaller and even more energy-efficient. (By Lin Meng-ju and Scully Hsiao)