Taiwan's satellite supply chain empowering international market entry

Allen Hsieh, Taipei; Vyra Wu, DIGITIMES Asia 0

Credit: TASA

LEO satellites grabbed worldwide headlines in the wake of the war in Ukraine. Taiwan, a geopolitical hotspot, has demonstrated digital resilience in recent years. According to the B5G Project of Taiwan Space Agency (TASA), Taiwan's main objectives in developing LEO communication are to establish a self-reliant satellite industry, strengthen communication security and backup capabilities, and bridge the gaps in ground networks.

Taiwan plays a significant role in the global electronics industry, and multiple companies have integrated into the supply chain of international satellite manufacturers. Leveraging expertise in the electronics and machinery industries, Taiwan possesses a considerable level of technical capability. With the B5G Project, Taiwan can expand its component development and, upon receiving flight heritage, not only supply international companies but also enter the global market, establishing a self-sufficient satellite supply chain.

LEO satellites demand technology that can withstand the challenging space environment. Components must overcome obstacles such as extreme temperature fluctuations and intense high-energy particle radiation. Additionally, these components must execute missions under conditions of limited power supply, non-repairability, and a restricted lifespan.

High-reliability components have thus become a challenging technical aspect and a focal point in Taiwan's development of LEO satcom technology, encompassing satellite computers, power control units, global positioning receivers, S-band helix antennas, patch antennas, as well as batteries, solar panels, and propulsion subsystems.

Taiwan, being a dominant force in the global electronics manufacturing industry, currently possesses the necessary local technology and expertise to manufacture small satellites weighing below 500 kilograms. With acquired flight heritage, Taiwan can establish its own satellite supply chain, leveraging its expertise in the ground station equipment sector. A couple of Taiwanese companies have already integrated into the supply chains of major players like SpaceX, OneWeb, and Kymeta. As satellite and terrestrial system integrate, Taiwan will take a more proactive role in developing LEO stacom.

In fact, for the Triton satellite scheduled for launch in 2023, over 80% of its critical systems and components are supplied by Taiwanese manufacturers. This showcases Taiwan's sufficient technological capability to drive advancements in the space industry. Previously, the scarcity of verification and validation opportunities relied on limited local satellite launches for providing payloads. However, with the decreasing costs of space rocket launches, more verification opportunities are expected in the future. This opens the door for Taiwan to secure a significant position in the highly competitive global space electronics industry.

The B5G project aims to launch one LEO satellite in 2025 and another in 2026. Additionally, there are plans to collaborate with private enterprises, including ICT manufacturers, to launch four homegrown satellites. The ultimate goal is for Taiwan to play a significant role in the satcom field.

To bolster digital resilience, the Ministry of Digital Affairs (MODA) is currently partnering with international companies to verify and explore various satcom possibilities. However, it is undeniable that as Taiwan's satellite development progresses, and even state-owned satellites are launched, a combination of domestic and international efforts will be achievable, effectively strengthening satcom's digital resilience.