Vietnam expected to master the technology to manufacture small satellites by 2017, when the project to build the first national space centre is scheduled for completion, said the vice chairman of the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology's Space Technology Institute, Dr Pham Anh Tuan.

The Hoa Lac national space centre project was to be built with 400 million USD from Japanese official development assistance (ODA) on a 9ha site in the Hoa Lac Hi-Tech Park, 30km from central Hanoi. Japanese experts would transfer technology and support to build the technical facilities and train staff.

"The centre will be one of the most modern space centres in Southeast Asia, with advanced equipment being used in Japan and European countries," said Tuan.

The project was first proposed in 2007, and the consulting group from the Japan External Trade Organisation (JETRO) submitted a pre-feasibility report last March and would conduct a feasibility study between August and next February, he said. A lending agreement with the Japanese government was then expected to be signed next year.

The first phase construction, including infrastructure, research facilities, and the installation of satellite monitoring and operating equipment and data processing equipment, would then take place during 2011-13. A satellite assembly and testing area and training area would follow in the second phase in 2014-18, giving Vietnam the capacity to assemble satellites of less than 500kg.

Each such satellite would cost an estimated 20-30 million USD and would be able to provide data to monitor and forecast natural disasters and environmental damage, as well as forecast agricultural and fisheries output.

The data could help reduce losses caused each year by natural disasters by 10 percent and save an estimated 750 lives, saving the Government over 1 billion USD annually, said Tuan.

The satellite systems would also help update map systems for land use planning and management, support global positioning systems, and monitor climate change.

The institute began co-operating two years ago with HanoiNationalUniversity's College of Technology to establish a space technology major and would offer a master's course next year.

"The move is expected to provide qualified staff for the centre," said Tuan. "Over 300 Vietnamese will be trained in space technology thanks to the project."

Source: VNA