Vietnam’s ship tracking satellite goes missing

Epsilon-5 rocket carrying 9 satellites including Vietnam’s NanoDragon satellite from Uchinoura Space Center in Kagoshima district, Japan on November 9, 2021

Vietnam’s NanoDragon satellite used to monitor ship activities in the South China Sea has not signaled for three weeks after being launched into orbit. A Vietnamese official told the state-controlled press about this.

NanoDragon satellite was successfully launched from Uchinoura Space Center in Kagoshima prefecture of Japan on 9/11.

This is a satellite made entirely in Vietnam and weighs four kilograms. The satellite is expected to use its automatic positioning system (AIS) signal receiver to monitor the activities of ships, especially in the South China Sea. The NanoDragon satellite is also designed to verify the quality of the control system and determine the satellite posture.

The AIS would broadcast the location of the ships and other information that makes them easy to track. Large ships are required to signal their position to AIS to help avoid collisions.

Until now, Vietnam has been monitoring the activities of the ships using AIS ground receiving stations. Having a specific AIS receiver satellite can greatly improve the ability to track ships in the South China Sea.

However,22 days after the satellite was launched into orbit, Vietnam’s ground station has not received any signal from NanoDragon, Dr. Le Xuan Huy – Deputy Director of Vietnam Space Center (Vietnam Space Center) VNSC) was quoted by the Vietnamese press.

VNSC is still figuring out what happened to the NanoDragon satellite and looking for a solution with its Japanese partner MEISEI and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), Huy said. He also added that VNSC engineers are actively looking for signals from satellites.

MEISEI is a supplier of test equipment for Nanodragon. The satellite has passed four rounds of safety tests conducted by JAXA, including tests for the environment, shock, and other functions.

Vietnam’s choice of Japan to launch the NanoDragon satellite is a symbol of the strategic partnership and trust between the two countries, according to the Vietnamese Ambassador to Japan Vu Hong Nam.

Last week, Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh became the first foreign leader to visit Japan to meet Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida since he took office in October. The two leaders shared “deep concerns about the situation in the South China Sea.”

VNSC plans to launch a ground-based surveillance satellite, LOTUSat-1, in 2023, and it remains unclear whether recent developments regarding NanoDragon will delay this plan.

Vietnam currently has six satellites operating in orbit, three of which are researched and manufactured by Vietnamese scientists. (Translated)