Vietnam has gradually mastered technology of developing small satellite systems

At 7:55:16 a.m (Hanoi time) on 9/11, Epsilon No. 5 rocket was ignited and launched into orbit, carrying Vietnam's NanoDragon satellite. At 9:6:54 a.m (Hanoi time), NanoDragon satellite separated from the rocket and started working in space. This event shows that Vietnam is gradually mastering the technology of developing small satellites.

* Reporter: Satellite NanoDragon has flown into orbit, this is a satellite entirely manufactured by Vietnamese scientists. What are the difficulties and advantages in manufacturing NanoDragon satellite?

* General Director of Vietnam Space Center Pham Anh Tuan: It can be said that the human resources to manufacture Nanodragon satellites have experience, at least they have participated in 2 previous satellite projects of Vietnam: PicoDragon and MicroDragon. Some members participated in about 3-4 more satellite testing processes while studying in Japan. The research team is supported by many domestic agencies and organizations in terms of morale as well as procedures. Besides, there is also support from the Japan Aerospace Agency (JAXA) in testing and launching NanoDragon satellite into orbit.

We also encountered some difficulties such as: infrastructure is still limited because the Vietnam Space Center Project is still in implementation stage until 2023, infrastructure investment under the Project such as Center Research and development, ground station, satellite testing equipment have not been completed yet, so technological equipment needed to develop NanoDragon satellite is still quite modest. Funding for satellite research and manufacture is limited, only funding for satellite manufacturing, excluding launch costs, ground stations. Moreover, Vietnam is also one of the countries that depends on the high-tech export control regulation (ITAR), so some high-tech equipment has to undergo very complicated import and export procedures, some devices cannot be purchased. This is quite different from MicroDragon satellite when it was developed in Japan. Along with that, the supporting industry in Vietnam is still limited, small companies have weak technical levels, companies with good technology are often not interested in manufacturing single products low profit rate. Therefore, it is difficult to implement the designs according to the wishes of the team.

In addition, the project implementation plan must both follow the requirements of the "National Science and Technology Program on space technology for the period 2016 - 2020" and the plan of Program “Innovative Satellite Technology No. 2 Demonstration” by Japan Aerospace Agency (JAXA), Japan.

Vietnamese scientists install NanoDragon satellite

* Reporter: When working in space at an altitude of 560 km, what special requirements will the satellite have to meet in material? How long is the life and energy of the satellite, sir?

* General Director of Vietnam Space Center Pham Anh Tuan: The common feature of systems operating in space is operating in extremely harsh environments (launch environment, vacuum environment, weightlessness, strongly impacted by high-energy rays and particles, etc.), which is different from the terrestrial environment. The satellite works completely remotely, without maintenance or repair during its operation; at the same time, putting satellites into orbit is pricey.

From the above characteristics, satellite development will face many challenges, satellites are specific and complex products, requiring interdisciplinary coordination when manufacturing. Satellites work in special environments and conditions, so they need a strict and good quality management and monitoring process.Components on satellites need to be small in size and mass, high in performance, tested in space applications, and capable of operating in harsh environments. Those are essentially high-tech products, often used in the defense industry, so access to these products needs to overcome barriers due to very strict import and export controls. That leads to huge manufacturing costs and any failure in the satellite system can lead to huge economic losses. This is also a barrier to the development of the industry.

For Vietnam, we still have to face other challenges, insufficient human resources and infrastructure, low investment, limited awareness of satellite technology affecting participation in the supply chains of economic sectors.

As can be seen, NanoDragon Satellite is a research satellite, the lifespan required by satellite design is at least 6 months. However, with the current parameters, we expect the satellite to be able to operate in orbit for more than 2 years.

NanoDragon satellite was launched into space by Japan's No. 5 Epsilon booster rocket

* Reporter: Can you tell us what are the benefits of putting NanoDragon satellite into orbit this time, sir?

* General Director of Vietnam Space Center Pham Anh Tuan: NanoDragon is a research satellite, so there are some benefits that satellite can bring such as:demonstrate that micro-satellite beam technology can be used to receive automatic identification of ships for the purpose of collision avoidance or combine data to track and monitor vehicles at sea. On the basis of these results, we can calculate the problem of using micro-satellite beams with similar features to NanoDragon in related service activities.

We accumulate experience, develop team, establish supplier network, perfect the process to form the foundation for the development of the next "Made in Vietnam" satellites.

* Reporter: Can you tell me about the current assessment of Vietnam's space science and technology?

* General Director of Vietnam Space Center Pham Anh Tuan: Space technology is technology used in activities outside the Earth's atmosphere, for purposes such as space flight or space exploration. New technologies derived from space technology are often exploited and then serve other socio-economic, security and defense activities. Common technologies can be mentioned as: telecommunications satellite for television, internet, satellite phone; remote sensing satellites for earth observation, hydrometeorological forecasting; Global positioning satellite for traffic activities.

Vietnam has started to research a number of areas of space science and technology since the 1980s. But research into mastering space technology, especially satellite technology, has only been started since 2006 to implement the "Strategy for research and application of space technology until 2020".

Up to now, Vietnam's space technology industry has achieved certain results such as: launched 2 VINASAT telecommunications satellites, 1 VNREDSat earth observation satellite and satellite control stations - systems, self-developed 3 small satellites (Pico/Nano/MicroDragon).In particular, the industry is implementing a national key project to build "Vietnam Space Center" with 3 main components:building technical infrastructure, training highly qualified staff and receiving satellite technology transfer to create a solid foundation for realizing the goal of mastering Vietnam's small satellite design and manufacturing technology in the "Strategy for development and application of space science and technology until 2030" approved by the Prime Minister.

Currently there is no specific standard to measure the level of space technology development of countries, but it can be classified  according to a number of milestones such as countries possessing rocket technology capable of putting satellites into orbit (currently there are only 12 countries in the world possessing this technology), countries possessing satellites in orbit, countries not possessing satellites yet.

Currently, almost only Africa has many countries that do not have satellites in orbit. In Southeast Asia, in 2021, the last two countries, Myanmar and Cambodia, also have the first satellite in orbit.In ASEAN, Vietnam is one of four countries that can design and manufacture its own small satellite.Therefore, if the Government is determined to invest in a concentrated, long-term, in the next 10-15 years, Vietnam can reach the world level in the field of designing and manufacturing small satellites.However, if compared at the world level as a whole in terms of space science and technology, we are still quite modest and need to try more.

Vietnam presently owns 6 satellites operating in orbit, including 2 telecommunications satellites, 1 earth observation satellite, and 3 research satellites.From the perspective of manufacturing methods, there are 3 satellites we buy from commercial companies around the world and 3 satellites developed by Vietnamese.

* Reporter: Thank you very much!

Translated by Phuong Ha
Link to Vietnamese version



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