Japan's first ever export of an Earth observation satellite will likely go to Vietnam, after the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology (VAST) largely agreed to purchase the craft, the Mainichi Shimbun learned Sept. 17.
The satellite is a high-performance, compact, radar-based model developed by NEC Corp. and Mitsubishi Electric Corp. The Japanese government is hoping the sale, if finalized, will give a boost to Japanese corporations' entry into the expanding global satellite market.
The Advanced Satellite with New System Architecture for Observation-2 (ASNARO-2), including its ground equipment, is expected to come with a price tag in the tens of billions of yen. It has one of the world's highest resolutions as a radar satellite, and is a compact 550 kilograms.
NEC and Mitsubishi Electric will produce the first satellite for testing with the financial assistance of the Japanese government, and plan to launch the satellite in 2017. Unlike optical satellites equipped with cameras, the ASNARO-2 is capable of surface observations even at night and in cloudy weather, making it an ideal tool in times of disaster -- when obtaining data on damage and the condition of crops becomes vital -- for which the Vietnamese government plans to use the system. The second satellite to be built around 2018 will be delivered to Vietnam using the Japanese government's Official Development Assistance (ODA) budget.
Vietnam had been looking to obtain a radar satellite because of the prevalence of cloudy weather in the country, which limits the usefulness of optical satellites. Japanese public and private sectors, meanwhile, had been making a concerted effort to sell their technology to Vietnam.
According to the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, the world's satellite market jumped 2.3-fold between 2005 and 2015 to some U.S. $203 billion, or around 20.8 trillion yen. However, sales of space-related equipment within Japan have failed to expand at the same rate, with market size lingering at around 350 billion yen in 2014.
The downsizing of observation satellites has led to reduced launch costs, making the satellite market a fastest growing area, particularly in up-and-coming economies. The Japanese government plans to support corporations that develop small and low-cost satellites, because of their great international competitiveness, and to promote exports.
Because the Japanese public and private sectors both rely heavily on foreign satellites for satellite imagery data, domestic production of satellites is also beneficial from a national security standpoint.