PARIS — The Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology (VAST) on Nov. 13 signed an agreement with Astrium of France to study an optical Earth observation satellite system, its associated ground infrastructure and training of Vietnamese engineers in Earth observation data handling and analysis, Astrium announced.

The agreement stops short of a contract despite the Vietnamese government’s announcement in January that it had selected France as its partner in development Earth observation satellites. The partnership was described at the time as including a French contribution of development aid to finance work on a 150-kilogram satellite whose total program budget, including the satellite’s launch and training of Vietnamese personnel, was estimated at about $100 million.

The Nov. 13 agreement came during a visit to Hanoi by French Prime Minister Francois Fillon during which France and Vietnam signed an intergovernmental space-cooperation accord.

Astrium Chief Executive Francois Auque said in a Nov. 13 statement that the agreement with VAST “punctuates several years of cooperation between Astrium and VAST space-program managers on Vietnam’s first Earth observation satellite. Astrium’s goal is to develop a long-term strategic space partnership with Vietnam.”

Astrium has established similar Earth observation satellite program relationships with Thailand, South Korea, Algeria, Chile and Kazakhstan, not including the small-satellite partnerships developed with numerous nations by Astrium-owned Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. of Britain.

Peter B. de Selding was the Paris bureau chief for SpaceNews.