Taiwan makes further inroads into global space supply chain, now eyeing satellite components

Janet Kang, Taipei; Misha Lu, DIGITIMES Asia 0

Credit: Taiwan Space Agency

The industrial event 'Satellite 2023' has begun in Washington DC, USA, attracting over 350 companies from the aerospace supply chain, among them household names like NASA, SpaceX, OneWeb and Intelsat. As a crucial link in the global electronics industry, Taiwan has also set its sight upon the space industry. Satellite 2023 is consequently seeing numerous Taiwan-based participants, such as Universal Microwave Technology, Intai Technology Group, Pyras Technology and Tron Future Tech.

Arthur Wang, the chairman of RF and microwave product designer Rapidtek Technologies, noted that Taiwanese companies have gained international recognition when it comes to the development, manufacturing, testing and system integration of phased array antennas. Currently, Rapidtek focuses on CubeSat and expects growing orders from the sector.

The company was founded in 2006 as a distributor of electronic switches, and entered the notebook and RF sectors 10 years ago. Low-earth orbit (LEO) satellites and 5G have been Rapidtek's latest focus. At Satellite 2023, the company is showcasing its Active Phased Array Radar (AESA) and RF testing solutions, including ground station, satellite communication payloads and frequency switches. Rapidtek believes that 2023 will see an unprecedented growth in phased array ground stations installed on airplanes, ships and automotives.

Together with Taiwan-based suppliers, Taiwan's Bureau of Industry under the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Taiwan Space Agency and Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) have also set up a 'Taiwan Space' exhibition sector for Sateliite 2023. Su-Wei Chang, founder and CEO of 5G mmWave total beamforming solution provider TMY Technology, noted that the concentrated and complete supply chain is Taiwan's greatest advantage to tap into the international LEO satellite market, though the hitherto discrete suppliers have to be linked up. LEO satellite supply chain includes ground station, dish antenna, signal transmitter, power amplifier, PCB, copper foil substrate, power supply and semiconductors - all of these play into Taiwan's strength.

Pangan Ting, the director of ITRI's Information and Communications Research Laboratories, also indicated that Taiwan has been cooperating with SpaceX, OneWeb, Kuiper and Telesat, noting the country's strength in contract manufacturing. Ting also believes that Taiwanese suppliers can gradually move from manufacturing ground station and end-products to making satellite components, similar to how some 5G mobile component suppliers eventually entered the base station market.

Specifically, Taiwan-based suppliers should tap into the core chips used in satellite communication payloads and meet the derived needs for advanced packaging and space-spec components to enhance their own indigenous design and manufacturing capabilities.

Despite burgeoning opportunities, the global space industry still lacks satellite service providers reaching a size on par with the likes of SpaceX and OneWeb. Only companies at such scale are able to pour in sufficient resources to handle supply chain management in Taiwan. Noting the gap, companies like TMY Technology increasingly see a chance to fill in by adopting a model that not only addresses design needs, but provides a high-margin integrated service that guides designs based on available supply chain technologies.