By Lin Chia-nan / Staff reporter
Taiwan’s first space development bill on Monday passed a third reading, empowering the Ministry of Science and Technology to establish a national rocket launch site.
The bill would confirm the ministry as the authority to oversee local space activities, including the establishment of a launch venue and approval of launch plans.
Those who launch a vehicle without obtaining government approval would face a fine of NT$1 million to NT$10 million (US$36,183 to US$361,834), or a prison term of up to five years, the bill says.
Compensation that an owner or operator of a launch vehicle would be required to pay is capped at NT$5 billion if a launch were to cause an accident.
The ministry should consult with the Ministry of Economic Affairs and other agencies to encourage the private sector to invest in the space industry and cultivate talent, the bill says.
The science ministry said that it would complete drafts of other regulations as soon as possible, including a bill to upgrade the National Space Organization (NSPO) to fall directly under its jurisdiction, removing the National Applied Research Laboratories from the hierarchy.
Questions have been raised over whether the development bill is tailored for space launch services firm Taiwan Innovative Space (TiSPACE) and how it could progress so swiftly after a draft was approved by the Executive Yuan on Feb. 18.
TiSPACE’s Web site says that it aims “to provide the commercial satellite operators with global-coverage and 24-hours-a-day services enabling on-demand satellite launches.”
The company, headquartered in Miaoli County’s Jhunan Township (竹南), sparked controversy after a planned test-launch of its Hapith I rocket in Taitung County’s Nantian Village (南田) last year was suspended because of a dispute over the site’s legitimacy.
The Taipei Times on May 7 reported that the company was headed to Australia to assess the feasibility of a launch there.
Space law expert Chris Huang (黃居正), who helped the science ministry and the NSPO draft the bill, said that they had started working on drafts in about 2014 and had referenced the regulations of many governments, including those in Australia, the EU, Japan and the US.
Despite some differences between drafts, they all revolved around regulations for launch vehicles, Huang said, denying that the bill is designed for TiSPACE.
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