The nation’s first crowd-funded rocket launch is scheduled to occur in October and provide valuable data to the Advanced Rocket Research Center (ARRC), which hopes to launch vehicles carrying miniaturized satellites within five to 10 years.
The center collaborated with the Backer Founder crowd-funding platform and raised NT$16 million (US$515,099). It plans to launch a two-segment large hybrid rocket to an altitude of more than 100km.
A hybrid rocket is one where two propellants — one solid and one liquid — are used.
Chen Yen-sheng (陳彥升), head of the National Space Organization’s rocket project, said the hybrid rocket is powered by a solid-state hydrocarbon and liquid oxygen, which offers an inflight thrust adjustment capability.
The fuel burn is between 250 and 290 seconds per kilogram, currently ranked No. 1 in fuel burn efficiency worldwide, Chen said.
It is also the fuel of choice for space tours due to its relative safety, Chen said, adding that a company in Silicon Valley has approached the organization with plans to create an emergency braking system using the rocket’s technology.
Former ARRC director-general Wu Tsung-hsin (吳宗信) said there had been nearly 1,000 satellites launched by 2012 and it is a trend to focus on satellites weighing less than 50kg.
Wu said that the peer-reviewed journal Science last year listed the CubeSat miniature satellite as one of its 10 greatest inventions of the year.
The CubeSat does not yet have commercial or private launch options and it needs to be launched with other payloads, Wu said.
He said that the time to launch takes about 18 months with the trajectory of launch depending on the primary payload.
Wu said manufacturing small rockets capable of launching miniature satellites to low Earth orbit — an altitude of between 160km and 2,000km — would be the nation’s way into the global rocket market.
The space tourism market is estimated at between US$4 billion and US$5 billion, of which fuel costs comprises US$1 billion to US$2 billion of expenditure, Wu said, adding that Taiwan’s rockets and fuel could take a share of that market.
Chen said he has always dreamed that one day Taiwan would be able to launch its own satellites, adding that the hybrid rocket brings that dream a little closer.
While the Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology has launched solid-fuel rockets converted from missiles, the nation’s satellites have been launched by foreign rockets.
Chen said the dream of the nation launching its own satellites made him choose to work at the National Space Organization rather than picking up the NT$12 million annual wage he was being paid by NASA.
Quelle; Taipei Times