The report by The China Post (updated: 01/28/2015)

National Space Organization to launch satellite to help predict earthquakes

By Karlie Lin, Special to The China Post
January 28, 2015, 12:01 am TWN

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The National Space Organization (NSPO, 國家實驗研究院國家太空中心) announced yesterday that it will launch a satellite for the study of the ionosphere and earthquake prediction early next year with the help of the U.S.

The NSPO will deliver the FORMOSAT-5 (福衛五號) to a U.S. military base in California in the first quarter of 2016.

The NSPO yesterday said that FORMOSAT-5 will be equipped with the Advanced Ionospheric Probe (AIP, 先進電離層探測儀), which was produced by a team from National Central University (NCU, 國立中央大學). This will make FORMOSAT-5 the second satellite in the world equipped for earthquake prediction research after a satellite launched by France. The satellite is expected to find the connection between ion concentration in the ionosphere and earthquakes.

According to the NSPO's Chief Scientist Liu Jann-yeng (劉正彥), FORMOSAT-1 (福衛一號) detected an unusual reduction of the ionosphere's ion concentration above Taiwan in 2002, five days before a magnitude-6.8 earthquake struck Yilan. Many in the scientific community think that this could be the best method to date for predicting earthquakes.

The AIP produced by the NCU team only weighs 4 kilograms, much lighter than the 14-kg Ionospheric Plasma and Electrodynamics Instrument (電離層電漿電動儀) installed inside FORMOSAT-1. The NSPO is expected to save US$1 million by sending a lighter device into space. The new equipment also boasts a significant increase in detection capability, with the ionosphere sampling rate surging from 1,024 times per second for the FORMOSAT-1 to 8,192 per second. The AIP produced domestically costs NT$30 million. The version on FORMOSAT-1 was purchased from the U.S. and came with a price tag of NT$160 million.

Taiwan is located in a low-latitude region, which is affected by what is known as an equatorial ionization anomaly (EIA) that may disrupt satellite communications and disturb GPS systems. After launching FORMOSAT-5, scientists can know more about the ionosphere, improve the quality of satellite and navigation accuracy in addition to learning more about earthquake prediction, Liu said.