‘Vietnam will develop its own navigation satellite system’

‘Vietnam will develop its own navigation satellite system’

Prof. Duong Ngoc Hai
Prof. Duong Ngoc Hai
Vice President
Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology
Dr. Pham Anh Tuan
Assoc. Prof. Dr. Pham Anh Tuan
Vietnam National Satellite Center
Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology
Dr. Bui Trong Tuyen
Dr. Bui Trong Tuyen
Deputy Director
Space Technology Institute
Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology

Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology (VAST) is spearheading the development of remote sensing satellites in the country. In an exclusive interview with Geospatial Media, top officials of VAST and Vietnam National Satellite Center (VNSC) reveals their future plans.

What are the mandate and activities of Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology (VAST)?
Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology (VAST) is a governmental agency. It was earlier known as Vietnam Academy of Science, which was set up in May 1975, by the Council of the Government (or the Government now) under the Decree 118/CP. VAST implements basic studies in natural sciences and technology in key directions approved by the Vietnam Government, in order to provide scientific grounds for scientific and technological management, for establishing plans, policies and strategies of socio-economic development, for the education of high-quality scientific and technological human resources for the country according to relevant laws.

VAST is the biggest scientific and technological agency of the country. It plays a leading role in the national scientific and technological development organisation system. With its technological and scientific potential, VAST strives to provide solutions for natural and man-made problems and to train high-standard human resources for the country.

VAST successfully completed the first phase of National Research Program on Space Science and Technology in 2011. Why did it feel the need of a separate satellite centre after the first phase of the programme, and set up “Vietnam National Satellite Center” in 2011?
The National Research Program on Space Science and Technology is basically a research programme. The Vietnam National Satellite Center (VNSC) is an organisation which does research on space sciences and technology. VNSC, a centre under VAST, was established by the Decision No. 1611/QÐ-TTg dated September 6, 2011, by the Prime Minister of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. Some of the tasks of the VNSC include:

  • To implement, receive and manage the Vietnam Space Center Project financed by Japan’s Official Development Assistance (ODA). – To perform national duties in research and development, application and education of satellite technology.
  • To develop and implement international cooperation projects in space technology, especially satellite technology;
  • To educate potential users about satellite technology, to build relationship with other universities with undergraduate and graduate studies in space technology, especially satellite technology;
  • To provide science and technology services in satellite technology;
  • To provide international cooperation in satellite technology;
  • To raise awareness about the importance and benefit of space technology in social – economic development and national security.

What is the goal of “Vietnam National Satellite Center” in the second phase of the programme during 2011 – 2015?
During 2011 and 2015, the main duties to be achieved by VNSC are:

  • Effectively implement the Vietnam Space Center Project;
  • Implement capacity development programme;
  • Enhance international cooperation with organisations, institutes, universities in space technology.

During 2008-2011, 19 research projects were funded VND 30,840 million under the programme. Please brief us about some of the key geospatial projects?
The key geospatial projects include:

  1. Setting up and exploitation of national shared remote sensing data base
    This project is designed to upgrade the implemented system at the National Data Centre (NDC) of the project Environment and Natural Resources Monitoring System (ENRMS) to serve the needs of sharing remote sensing data to governmental offices for effective utilisation of remote sensing image data for the social-economic development.
  2. Research, design and manufacture of GPS devices for applications to monitor and control remote objects via mobile phone network
    • Research, design and manufacture of high precision equipment for receiving GPS signals and equipment to monitor and control mobile objects based on the application of GPS technology;
    • Application of GPS satellite navigation and mobile phone communication network for surveillance system to manage transportation, search and rescue, navigation and environmental monitoring systems.
  3. Developing the remote sensing image processing software based on GRASS software
    Some of the key objectives of the project include:
    • Development of the remote sensing image processing software tools with open source service to serve research activities, teaching and applications.
    • Capacity development in writing remote sensing image processing software.
    • Practice the applications of remote sensing image processing software tools in exploitation and management of natural resources and the prevention and mitigation of natural disasters.

Apart from research projects, VAST is also involved in Pico-satellite project and Micro-STAR programme. In what capacity is VAST contributing to the Pico-satellite project and Micro-STAR programme?
Pico-satellite is product of VAST. VAST cooperates with JAXA and other member countries of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Micro-Star Program. We are involved in the design phase.

VAST is very active in setting up the ASEAN Disaster Monitoring Network (DMS-Net). Please tell us more about the DMS-Net and the role of VAST?
Disaster Management Network was established and is conducted by Japan Ministry of Economic, Trade and Industry by means of satellite system. The aim of DMS-Net is to maximise the opportunities of space and ground systems and minimise the socio-economic losses from natural hazards. VAST is willing to participate in the Network and to contribute to this programme by sharing the information (through satellite data centre) and infrastructure (ground station).

Is Vietnam also planning to develop its own satellite navigation system? Will services of Japanese satellite navigation system be available in Vietnam? VNSC is willing to cooperate with JAXA and contribute to the project for mutual benefits. Quasi-Zenith Satellite System (QZSS) will make us less dependent on GPS in transportation and in mapping urban areas. Given the above mentioned importance of this system, in the future Vietnam will develop its own navigation satellite system.

Vietnam is developing its first remote sensing satellite VNREDSat-1, in collaboration with Astrium, and VNREDSat-1B in collaboration with Spacebel. Can you elaborate the cooperation between VAST and these satellite companies and what would be the future plan with them?
VAST, in collaboration with Astrium, is developing its first earth observation satellite system VNREDSat-1 using optical and multi-spectral imaging technology. The VNREDSat-1 project, one of VAST’s prioritised projects, is the starting step to form the Vietnamese system of earth observation small satellite systems in order to realise the “National strategy for research and application of space technology until 2020”.

The success of VNREDSat-1 project will contribute efficiently to the development of the socio-economics, to respond to natural disasters and global weather changes, to meet part of the remote sensing image needs and to raise Vietnam’s regional and worldwide position.

The VNREDSat-1 images will be used to replace other satellite images such as SPOT5 which are currently purchased from overseas.

In particular, the VNREDSat-1 project utilises all the existing infrastructure of the satellite image receiving, archiving and processing system of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, that builds up, for the first time in Vietnam, a complete monitoring system from the satellite to ground receiving stations together with a processing and distributing centre of remote sensing data.

Besides, Astrium also supports VAST to train a group of engineers capable of operating and exploiting the satellite system and allows Vietnamese engineers to approach to not just the system design process but also the manufacturing process of the earth observation satellites.

I must agree that the collaboration between VAST and Astrium is a long-term and effective one which is strongly backed by both Governments.

VAST is also in collaboration with Belgian companies such as Spacebel, QINETIQ, AMOS, etc. to prepare the second Vietnamese EO satellite system VNREDSat-1B. The VNREDSat-1B satellite aims to use the optical and hyper-spectral imaging technology. This is a new technology not just in Vietnam.

Is Vietnam planning to embrace and strengthen public-private partnership to expand its space activities? What are its future plans?
The socialisation of the space activities has been identified in “National Strategy for research and application of space technology until 2020” of Vietnamese government in order to mobilise the national resources to develop space technology – a relatively new but highly potentially applicable area. As mentioned earlier, since space technology is a new area, as a “follower”, Vietnam would like to learn from other countries’ experiences in order to build up appropriate steps suitable with its own conditions, in which international cooperation is a key factor.