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Nov 22, 2007 / 16:21

Vietnam’s space technology: starting with 1kg satellite

Hanoi Times - Dr. Pham Anh Tuan, Associate Dean of the Institute for Space Technology of Vietnam, talked with VietNamNet o­n his way to Bangalore, India for the 14th Session of the Asia-Pacific Regional Space Agency Forum (APRSAF-14), o­n the occasion of the 1st anniversary of his institute (November 20).

Hanoi Times - Dr. Pham Anh Tuan, Associate Dean of the Institute for Space Technology of Vietnam, talked with VietNamNet o­n his way to Bangalore, India for the 14th Session of the Asia-Pacific Regional Space Agency Forum (APRSAF-14), o­n the occasion of the 1st anniversary of his institute (November 20).

Q: What has the institute done to develop the infant space industry of Vietnam in the past year?

A: Within o­ne year, the institute has finalised its organisation and set up research facilities to design and manufacture small satellites and apply remote sensing technology.

Our scientists are conducting some projects o­n super-small satellites, the application of remote sensing technology in making maps of land and salt-marsh forest changes.

We have trained some more master’s degree holders in space technology and will work with the University of Technology to train space technology engineers as of 2008.

The Institute is trying to expand international cooperation relations with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), the European Space Agency (ESA), and many companies in Europe, Japan, Korea, Malaysia and universities in the US.

In multilateral cooperation, the institute has attended international forums and met with space technology organisations, for example the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), the Asia-Pacific Regional Space Agency Forum (APRSAF) and ASEAN.

We have also participated in many international conferences o­n space technology in Vietnam, for example the workshop o­n using space technology to manage natural resources and the sea environment in Vietnam, the Asia-Pacific workshop o­n using space technology in forest management and environmental protection. Additionally, we will host the 15th session of the Asia-Pacific Regional Space Agency Forum in Hanoi next year.

In the next several years, we will conduct a project to develop a space technology research and implementation complex at Hanoi-based Hoa Lac Hi-tech Park, the first large and modern space technology research zone in Vietnam.

Q: Is it difficult for Vietnam to develop space technology as the space technology institute was established just o­ne year ago while other countries have dozens of years of experience in this field?

A: Since the historical trip by the first astronaut of Vietnam and Asia, Pham Tuan, in July 1980, Vietnam has had nearly 30 years access to space technology. After a long time in oblivion, some space technology-related projects have been resumed. The most outstanding project is the launching of Vinasat telecom satellite o­n March 28, 2008, the first satellite of Vietnam.

The Institute for Space Technology is manufacturing a small satellite to serve natural resource and environmental supervision in Vietnam under the government’s assignment.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment has recently established the Remote Sensing Centre and is building a Satellite Photo Receiver Station, using French ODA to serve natural resource and environmental supervision and protection, natural disaster warning, and land planning and management.

In cooperation with JAXA, the Institute for Space Technology is carrying out a project to design and manufacture a super-small satellite (pico/nano) and build a remote sensing data processing centre.

Q: Space technology is costly, isn’t it?

A: Investment in space technology is a long-term mission which requires billions of USD so not o­nly the state but businesses should invest in this hi-tech field.

The state is determined to invest in specific projects, such as the Vinasat satellite (performed by the Ministry of Information and Communications), small satellite VNREDSat for earth observation (by the Institute for Space Technology), using space technology to supervise natural resources and the environment of Vietnam (by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment).

These projects cost hundreds of millions USD but o­nce they are completed they will greatly benefit the country in socio-economic development, national defence and security and improve the nation’s position in the region.

Q: Do you believe that Vietnam will catch up with regional countries in space technology?

A: Since the launching of the first artificial satellite Sputnik in October 1957, this year many countries celebrated the 50th anniversary of space technology.

The world has witnessed the outstanding development of space technology, not o­nly in Russia, the US or Europe but also in Asia countries as China, Japan and India.

China became the third country to send astronauts into space and it plans to visit the moon in 2020. In August 2007, Japan successfully launched an observatory satellite to the moon. In January 2007, India successfully landed a space ship, a precondition for launching manned space ships.

Many other countries are investing in space technology to serve economic and social development. The Republic of Korea has selected its first astronauts to send to ISS in 2008. Malaysia has sent its first astronaut into space. Neighbouring countries of Vietnam as Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia own small observatory satellites already.

In this situation, Vietnam should heavily and synchronously invest in space technology to catch up with countries in the region.

Q: You said that the Institute for Space Technology is designing a super-small satellite. What is it and how will it be used?

A: It is called pico satellite, with weight of less than 1kg. In addition, we have nano satellite, with weight of less than 10kg. These super-small satellites are for training of space technology researchers and to perform specific scientific missions.

The Pico satellite designed by the Institute of Space Technology is 1kg in weight, with the size of 10cmx10cmx10cm. It will have a camera to take photos of the earth and equipment that allows it to connect with the o­n-land receiver station. It is suitable for space technology training and research tasks in Vietnam at present and investment in this satellite is reasonable.

We plan to test this satellite in 2009 and launch it to the space in 2010.

Q: Vietnam will need a contingent of human resources for space technology in the near future. How is the institute preparing for this?

A: o­ne year is not long for research and application in a hi-tech field like space technology. Though we have gained initial results, we should ask: “How can we make great progress in this field?”

The first thing is we have to popularise knowledge about space technology and its great advantages to social and economic development, in sustainable development and growth of Vietnam. The second thing is adequate investment in human resources, material facilities and specific national projects o­n space technology.

We have to attach importance to human resources. In the current conditions of Vietnam, training would be conducted through projects and o­n-the-job training.

From now o­n, we need to develop a long-term human resource training strategy by opening standard technology facilities based o­n the models and experience of developed countries. With basic knowledge like mathematics, physics, mechanics and IT, space technology engineers can seek jobs in not o­nly the traditional space technology industry but in other fields, such as automobile, petrochemistry, oceanography, research and development centres, government agencies, universities, etc.

Expanding international cooperation through specific projects, bilateral and multilateral cooperations, emphasising relationships with reputed space agencies in the world like JAXA, ESA, NASA and luring Vietnamese experts who are working in space technology agencies abroad are also important.




1. Dr. Pham Anh Tuan (middle) at Tsukuba Space Centre in Japan.

2. Assembling a pico satellite (photo: http://www.cubesat.auc.dk)