PARIS — Europe’slaunch consortium on Dec. 17 said it had signed a commercial contract with a single customer for two Vega vehicles, with the launches to occur in 2017 and 2018.
Evry, France-based Arianespace did not name the customer, but the dates correspond to when the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology (VAST) plans to launch its next Earth observation spacecraft — one optical, one equipped with an X-band radar imager.
Europe’s Vega small-satellite launch vehicle has made just two flights, both of them successful. On the second, VAST’s VNREDSat-1 Earth observation satellite was one of the passengers.
Vietnam has an active Earth observation satellite development program designed in part to nurture a national capability to build spacecraft without recourse to foreign providers.
For now, Vietnam has cast a wide net for suppliers. Europe’s Astrium Satellites built VNREDSat-1. Belgium’s Spacebel is leading the consortium building the VNREDSat-1b optical satellite, and Japan’s NEC Corp. is building the two LOTUSat spacecraft, both with X-band radar sensors, for launch in 2018 and 2020.
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