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FORMOSAT-7
Successfully Guided by Self-developed Satellite
Operations and Control System

2020/09/15
On May 20, 2020, President Tsai Ing-Wen declared in her inaugural speech that the space industry is one of the country’s six core strategic industries and listed Taiwan’s entry into the global space industry as a key indicator of Taiwan’s future industrial development. An impeccable space technology capability is the foundation for the development of the space industry. In recent years, the National Space Organization (NSPO) of National Applied Research Laboratories (NARLabs) has actively and independently developed satellite-related technologies under the guidance of Taiwan’s Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST). Following the successful development of on-board computers, image processing systems, and optical remote sensing payloads, the multi-satellite operations and control system, XPSOC (Cross-Platform Satellite Operation Control), and satellite planning and scheduling systems have all been completed to establish Taiwan’s technical capabilities in satellite operations and control. After more than a year of verifications, these systems have proven they can fully support the mission operations of the FORMOSAT-7 constellation. 

FORMOSAT-7 satellites were launched at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, USA, by Space X’s Falcon Heavy launch vehicle on June 25, 2019. The Satellite Operations and Control Center (SOCC) of NSPO successfully communicated with 6 satellites through Darwin (in Australia) and Taiwan ground stations after launching. The self-reliant satellite operations and control system, XPSOC, has since served as the FORMOSAT-7 constellation’s related mission. After 14 months of flight operations, FORMOSA-7 satellites have communicated with the ground more than 30,000 times, collection of scientific data on the ground has exceeded 2 million records, and the orbital deployment of the first 4 satellites has been successfully completed, showcasing the self-reliant XPSOC’s superiority. 

In a satellite program, the SOCC is the ground segment’s core, and its operating functions are integrated by several large software systems (including XPSOC, planning and scheduling system, data trending analysis system, and data management system). To develop the self-reliant overall satellite operations and control system, in addition to having practical experience in satellite mission operations, it is also necessary to understand the design principles and core technologies of satellite subsystems so that relevant technologies can be implemented into system codes. NSPO executed the past satellite programs from FORMOSAT-1 to 5 and tried to establish a 30% to 50% self-reliant technology depending on the program, but the main system was still provided by foreign manufacturers. 

In order to fully grasp the relevant key technologies, NSPO has started the development of self-reliant satellite operations and control systems based on its accumulated field experience in satellite operations and the information technology capability of domestic companies, SYSCON & ASI, since 2009. In the development process, in order to ensure the function of the system, some satellite system operating functions in particular were first verified and improved in the FORMOSAT-5 operation mission, and then continued to improve according to the functional requirements of the FORMOSAT-7 mission. After hundreds of tests and adjustments, a product of satellite operations and control system with commercial-level functions has finally been completed. 

This 100% self-made satellite operations and control system has been verified by FORMOSAT-7 satellite operations and control and can completely replace the system provided by foreign companies. Compared with the systems of foreign companies, the self-reliant satellite operations and control system can not only greatly reduce the construction and maintenance costs, but also shorten the development time of each satellite mission to less than one year. The system can support multi-satellite constellation operations. In addition to the operation of the FORMOSAT-7 satellite mission, it also lays the foundation for supporting other satellite programs. 

The ground system of NSPO's subsequent major satellite mission programs will all use it as a control system development platform for updates and upgrades. The core technology and commercial-grade products of the satellite operations and control system developed will also use the advantages of Taiwan's information and communication industry to strive for business opportunities in global satellite ground control through technology transfers or production-research collaboration, and achieve the mission assigned by MOST to promote the development of the domestic space industry. 

 

SaSatellite Operations & Control Status: Right screen shows the contact schedule for all the satellites. Center screen shows the image and RF spectrum of the three TT&C stations in Taiwan. Left screen shows the ground track of all the satellites in a world map.