Over the past 12 years, the FORMOSAT-2 satellite has acquired 2.55 million photos and is best known for documenting images of Taiwan before and after Typhoon Morakot hit the island, which proved helpful to the government's land valuation efforts.
Now, according to Taiwan's China Post online infosite, experts last Friday announced plans to decommission FORMOSAT-2. The satellite will be temporarily replaced with Japan's satellite services until the new FORMOSAT-5 is launched sometime before the close of 2016.
National Applied Research Laboratories (NARLabs) Vice President Wang Jough-tai confirmed this news to local media, saying that though FORMOSAT-2 was originally designed for a five-year mission in May 2004, the satellite has operated for more than 12 years. However, the satellite has now been deemed unrepairable—one of FORMOSAT-2's four reaction wheels malfunctioned in 2011 and spacecraft has been running on the three remaining reaction wheels—then another one failed last month.
According to the National Space Organization (NSPO), FORMOSAT-2 served functions including monitoring and taking photos of the Earth's surface, then sending the captured images back to the planet. According to the NSPO, satellites should be discarded when there are only two reaction wheels remaining as satellites cannot adjust their camera positions when that occurs and shooting angles are influenced.
Before the new satellite FORMOSAT-5 can be put into service, NARLabs said the plans are to rely on platforms established by international organizations, including Japan's Sentinel Asia and UNOSAT, to retrieve images. Wang said that the government is still mulling over how to handle the retired FORMOSAT-2, whether to let the satellite become space junk or return to Earth.