Taiwan’s Own ‘Starlink’ Satellite Network Under Development; Aims To Build 700 Ground Stations Across The Country

By Ashish Dangwal,
Published by The Eurasian Times, 4 January 2023

Taiwan appears to be speeding up preparations to create its own version of the Starlink satellite network, focusing on the significance of having an operational command and communication platform in a war-like situation.

The Taiwanese government is now working with the Ministry of Digital Development, the National Space Center, and commercial manufacturers to establish “Taiwan’s version of the Starlink” system, reported Taiwan-based CM Media. 

The National Security Council is overseeing the project. With the help of low-orbit satellites, the project aims to build Taiwan’s real-time, continuous communication network.

Due to China’s growing threat, Taiwan anticipates that if a conflict begins, crucial targets like communications and radar sites will be struck by the first wave of missiles, paralyzing their command and communication structure. 

The project was first conceived in 2019, but its progress has accelerated in response to the recent conflict in Ukraine, which showed how SpaceX’s Starlink satellites became a crucial tool for Ukrainian forces.

A group of Starlink satellites was seen from the International Space Station. (file photo/Wikimedia Commons)

The new report stated that the advanced plan for space-based energy and industrial development, which was previously listed as being managed by the National Science and Technology Institute, has been shifted to the Department of Digital Affairs.

The Digital Department will install ‘asynchronous orbital satellite’ equipment at around 700 ground stations throughout the country and three foreign stations to test the operation of “contingency communication services.”

By the end of 2023, it is anticipated that 70% of satellites will include autonomous domestic components. The National Space Center actively supports the project, the report noted. 

The nation also revised the three-phase space program to double the goal of deploying at least 20 communications satellites by 2030. 

Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) and the Space Center will put the first two first-generation communications satellites into operation.

Furthermore, it is anticipated that an “upgraded version” will be launched to assist private manufacturers in further developing and enhancing the performance of the satellites.

According to the report, the estimated transmission speed of space-based devices is more than 2 Gbps. The low-cost technology, which enables users to purchase affordable satellite communication devices, will be crucial in increasing the popularity of satellite services. 

A Taiwan-based expert noted that this new type of space-based network might require 50 to 60 satellite signals to operate simultaneously. Taiwan’s communication satellite network will have fewer satellites than Starlink.

However, by using related technologies, they can still provide services of the same caliber, the expert added. 

Why Is Ukraine Building A Space-Based Communication Network? 

The Starlink technology enabled the Ukrainian army to retain command and communication during the Russian-Ukrainian war. The space-based system also locks targets such as Russian military vehicles and guides drones to conduct bombing operations.

Since the start of the conflict in Ukraine, Taiwan has been taking lessons from Kyiv’s strategies and combat against a formidable foe. 

The aggression of Beijing toward the island has only increased the sense of an impending invasion. In response, Taiwan has been bolstering its defenses and altering its military plan to confront the enemy. 

The minister of digital affairs announced that Taiwan is researching how Ukraine used satellites to communicate with the outside world while in conflict. Taipei is particularly interested in the military purposes of such a system. 

An artist's illustration of SpaceX's Starlink internet satellites in orbit. (Image credit: SpaceX)
An artist’s illustration of SpaceX’s Starlink internet satellites in orbit. (Image credit: SpaceX)

The latest report noted that synthetic aperture radar technology is a crucial feature of low-orbit satellites. This technology can withstand harsh weather; if you can break past the technical barrier and enhance the image resolution to less than 0.5 meters, it has the technical energy of military satellites.

Unlike submarine cables, which can be damaged by natural disasters or during wars, space-based satellite communication systems are not subject to such constraints. 

Inspired by the Ukrainian situation, the country’s primary preparation to sustain communications during a Chinese attack is a satellite trial program that will cost NT$550 million ($18 million) over the next two years to ensure internet services over Taiwan.

Taiwan is swiftly catching up, with more than 40 companies competing with foreign satellite producers. After introducing “Taiwan’s version of Starlink,” the country will be able to coordinate upstream and downstream to create a whole supply chain and ecosystem.

See: Original Article