Vietnam has launched two communications satellites into orbit and hopes to control them without foreign assistance by March 2013.
The second satellite VINASAT-II went into orbit from French Guiana’s Kouru launch pad nearly nine months ago, showing the country’s desire to grasp satellite technology in space.
Together with 2008’s VINASAT-I launch, VINASAT-II helped assert Vietnam’s sovereignty over space, add to its telecommunications infrastructure, contribute to national socio-economic development and strengthen national security and defence capacity.
At a ceremony held shortly after the VINASAT-II launch, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung revealed that the Party and State were especially interested in the two satellite projects because of their political and socio-economic significance.
The two projects not only confirm Vietnam’s sovereignty over space but also help elevate the country’s profile in the world arena, said the PM.
Hoang Phuc Thang, head of the Que Duong Satellite Station that is operating and controlling VINASAT-I and VINASAT-II said the successful launches demonstrate
Vietnam’s determination to effectively utilise the frequency resource in space Vietnam had registered at 131.8 degrees East in orbit.
He said more than 90 percent of VINASAT-I’s capacity has been used after four years of operation. Meanwhile, VINASAT-II is operating according to technical specifications, and is capable of providing quality services to clients.
Since undertaking the VINASAT 2 project, the Satellite Information Centre under the Vietnam Post and Telecommunications Group (VNPT) International (VNPT-I) and US contractor Lockheed Martin have been running joint training courses for Vietnamese engineers.
These courses helped engineers overcome difficulties in controlling the two satellites, including adjacent-channel interference caused by VINASAT-I and VINASAT-II’s proximity.
Vietnamese engineers have successfully controlled VINASAT-I 27 months independently after entering orbit – 9 months ahead of schedule. They hope to use this experience to limit the hand-over time for VINASAT-II and to manage the two satellites in March 2013 without direct foreign assistance.
Kent Mitchell, one of Lockheed Martin technical experts, who has worked at Que Duong Satellite Station for six months, praised the Vietnamese engineers’ intelligence and eagerness to learn from foreign experts.
“I totally believe that Vietnamese engineers will be capable of managing the two satellites without foreign support very shortly,” said Mitchell.
After receiving VINASAT-II from contractor Lockheed Martin, VNPT assigned its VNPT-I to manage and operate the satellite, which started providing services as of August 15, 2012.
VNPT-I director Lam Quoc Cuong said his company has effectively run the two satellites and its 2012 turnover increased by 12 percent from the previous year.
However, he admitted that it is difficult to fully exploit the frequency capacity of VINASAT-II as the satellite market is experiencing fierce competition and all countries in the region have their own satellites.
“To secure a firm foothold, the company will have no choice but to keep hiring prices at acceptable levels and provide better sales services,” said Cuong.
To this end, he said, besides domestic clients, VNPT-I will look for foreign partners in Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and other countries to hire the satellite.
VINASAT-II was designed to operate for up to 20 years, or five years more than initially planned. Cuong expects that the VINASAT-II project will break even and begin to make profits after 10 years.