Tokyo, Japan: Japan’s ambassador to Vietnam, Yasuaki Tanizaki, and Vietnam’s minister of planning and investment, Bui Quang Vinh. Under the deal, Vietnam will buy a pair of Japanese-designed earth observing (EO) radar satellites which will be Japan’s first export sale of an EO satellite system, Space News reported
The satellites will be based on Japan’s new ASNARO — Advanced Satellite with New System Architecture for Observation — remote sensing platform, whose development was spurred by a shift in government space policy that places more emphasis on practical and commercial applications. The first ASNARO satellite, an optical observation craft, is slated for launch around the end of 2012 on a Russian Dnepr rocket.
Japan will finance the satellite project through overseas development assistance loans it is providing to Vietnam as part of a broader 92.6 billion yen (USD 1.2 billion) package that includes the building of a major shipping port, a highway project and efforts to bolster flood-prone Vietnam’s ability to respond to natural disasters.
About half of the total aid package, or 46.4 billion yen, is earmarked for the satellite project, a decade-long undertaking that will see Japan build a ground station and train Vietnamese engineers and ground controllers.
Japan will provide an initial 7.2 billion yen over the next two years to begin work on the X-band satellites, the first of which will be built in Japan and launched in 2017, according to Nobutaka Takeo, Deputy Director of the Space Industry Office at the Ministry of Economy Trade and Industry (METI), Japan, which proposed the project. The second satellite, slated to launch in 2020, will be assembled in Vietnam.
In addition to funding a joint effort between Vietnam and Japan to establish payload specifications for the satellites, some of the initial money will be used to begin setting up an assembly, integration and test centre in Vietnam and to start training Vietnamese technicians, Takeo said.
While Japan makes extensive loans under its Overseas Development Assistance program to emerging Asian economies, the deal with Vietnam marks the first time Japan has used the programme to fund satellites, Takeo said.
The satellite loan will be coordinated via the Japan International Coordination Agency (JICA), a quasi-governmental body responsible for implementing Japan’s overseas aid programs. JICA will provide the loan for the two satellites and related facilities, and help Vietnam develop the capacity to operate and maintain the facilities and equipment, said Yoshio Wada, Deputy Director General of JICA’s Southeast Asia Department.
“It is the first attempt for JICA to provide assistance for Earth observation satellites,” Wada said. “Vietnam has a relatively higher risk of the incidence of natural disasters. Particularly, typhoons and floods are serious problems. Given such circumstances, it is recognised that establishment of a continuous Earth observation satellite system is essential to conduct monitoring, forecasting and impact evaluation of climate change.”