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Vietnam maritime observation satellite launched from Japan

By Staff reporters   November 8, 2021 | 07:08 pm PT
NanoDragon, a micro-satellite built by the Vietnam National Space Center, was launched into orbit from Japan Tuesday morning.

It was launched on an Epsilon 5 rocket from the Uchinoura Space Center in Kagoshima Prefecture, by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

NanoDragon is launched into space from Japan, November 9, 2021. Video from JAXA's YouTube channel

The rocket carried eight other satellites made in Japan.

Speaking from the launch site, Vietnam’s ambassador to Japan, Vu Hong Nam, said it was a "very proud initial achievement" for the VNSC, and marked an important step forward for Vietnam's space industry.

The NanoDragon is a nano-layer cubesat satellite weighing about four kilograms made up of multiple small modules.

Its research, design, and integration was done completely in Vietnam by VNSC scientists.

Its entire mechanical structure, power distribution circuit and some auxiliary circuits were also made in Vietnam. But the lack of infrastructure in Vietnam meant the satellite had to undergo vibration, shock and thermal vacuum testing at the Kyushu Institute of Technology in Japan.

NanoDragon seeks to demonstrate micro-satellite beam technology to receive automatic identification system (AIS) signals to monitor activities at sea.

Pham Anh Tuan, general director of the VNSC, explained: "Each ship sends out a signal containing information about its type and size. Currently Vietnam only has terrestrial signal receiving stations and no satellites. When this technology is successful, we can launch more satellites to continuously update signals from vessels in Vietnam’s waters."

Vietnamese engineers create the micro-satellite NanoDragon. Photo by the Vietnam National Space Center

Vietnamese engineers create the micro-satellite NanoDragon. Photo by the Vietnam National Space Center

NanoDragon is designed to remain in orbit for a minimum of six months though VNSC estimated it would operate for two years.

Tuan also said the Vietnam Space Center would be built in 2023 at the Hoa Lac Hi-Tech Park in Hanoi, and bigger satellites would be built once the technical infrastructure is in place there.

There would be a center to assemble and test satellites weighing up to 200 kg, and small satellites like NanoDragon too could be tested in Vietnam, he said.

In 2019 Japan had launched Vietnam's 50-kg MicroDragon into space. It was used to observe Vietnam's coastline, evaluate water quality, locate fisheries resources, and monitor changes to serve aquaculture, detect cloud coverage and aerosols, collect ground-based sensor signals, and transmit them to stations on Earth.

Vietnam sent its first indigenous satellite into space in 2013 after earlier launching four others made by foreign companies. PicoDragon remained in orbit for three months.

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