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NanoDragon: Vietnam Successfully Launches Nanosatellite

Image credit: VNA

Under the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology, the Vietnam National Space Centre (VNSC) developed a nano-layer CubeSat satellite, the NanoDragon. The satellite was launched from the Uchinoura Space Centre in Japan on 9 November. According to a news report, the NanoDragon satellite successfully separated from Japan’s fifth Epsilon solid-fuel rocket, flying in outer space by itself at a height of 560 kilometres.

The purpose of the satellite was to evaluate the success of the Automatic Identification System receiver in a 3U CubeSat bus using a constellation of nanosatellites. The mission will also assess the quality of the satellite’s attitude determination and control system and a newly-developed advanced onboard computer.

The launch of the satellite is a chance for Vietnam to enrich experiences, develop personnel, set up a network of suppliers, and complete procedures for the development of other Made-in-Vietnam satellites in the future, the General Director of VNSC, Pham Anh Tuan, stated. Weighing just 3.8 kilograms (kg), the satellite is comparable in weight to its predecessor, the 1kg microsatellite PicoDragon launched in 2013. It is also just a fraction of the weight of the 50kg MicroDragon satellite previously launched in 2019.

Following the launch of the NanoDragon, the VNCS plans to launch the earth observation satellite, the LOTUSat-1, in 2023. As per a media report, the NanoDragon is not only a feat of technology in that it leverages nanotechnology into CubeSat technology; it is also part of a more comprehensive space programme launched by Vietnam, marking a profound step forward for the country in the field of aerospace.

Tuan pointed out several difficulties facing Vietnam in this area, including poor infrastructure systems, incomplete research and development centres, land stations and satellite testing equipment, and modest resources for satellite research and manufacturing. The sector is implementing a national key project to build a Vietnam Space Centre with major components such as building a technical infrastructure system and training high-quality human resources. It will receive the transfer of satellite technologies to create a firm foundation to master technologies in the design and manufacturing of nanosatellites, which is included in the strategy on developing and applying aerospace sciences and technologies until 2030, which was recently approved by the Prime Minister.

To date, Vietnam has owned six satellites that are operating in the orbit, including two telecommunications, one earth observation, and three research satellites. Of those, three were developed by Vietnamese scientists.

Following the successful launch, the Vietnamese Ambassador to Japan, Vu Hong Nam, explained that the country chose Japan to launch NanoDragon because it is a partner to coordinate and support Vietnam in testing small satellites. It is symbolic cooperation for the reliable relationship between the two countries, within the framework of the Vietnam-Japan extensive strategic partnership, towards the 50th anniversary of the establishment of bilateral diplomatic ties in 2023.

The NanoDragon was delivered to Japan on 11 August and tested at the Uchinoura Space Centre from 16-17 August before being officially transferred to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) for launching, under the second “Innovative satellite technology demonstration” programme. Previously, JAXA had tried and failed to launch the Epsilon-5 due to ground radar issues and unfavourable weather.

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