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India Establishing Satellite Tracking Station in Vietnam

ISRO’s downrange tracking station in Biak, Indonesia. Photograph courtesy of ISRO.

Following a visit to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi by his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Xuan Phuc on January 24, 2018, India and Vietnam have agreed to go ahead with the establishment of an Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) satellite tracking and satellite imagery receiving station to be located in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam.

The station, called a Data Reception and Tracking and Telemetry Station (DRTTS), will enable ISR to track and receive telemetry from its launch vehicles after they have been launched from India, track its own satellites as they pass over Southeast Asia, and also allow Vietnam and its partner states in the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) to receive timely satellite imagery from Indian Earth observation satellites for the purposes of ocean surveillance, resource management, environmental monitoring, and disaster response and management.

The DRTTS will also allow India and its ASEAN partners the ability to monitor Chinese activities in the South China Sea. Vietnam and a number of other ASEAN countries, along with India, have voiced concerns and opposition to what they say is a gradual Chinese takeover of the South China Sea in an attempt to extend Chinese sovereignty over it at the expense of countries such as Vietnam, Philippines, and Malaysia. India has also voiced its opposition to Chinese moves due to concerns about freedom of navigation of Indian vessels, as well as also enduring Sino-Indian geopolitical rivalry throughout the Indo-Pacific region.

The DRTTS was first discussed by India and Vietnam in 2016, and was not well-received by China who viewed the station as a “complicating” factor in the regional dispute over the status of the South China Sea.

Beijing’s objections to the DRTTS at the time reportedly made Vietnam hesitant to go ahead with the project, but recent events in the South China Sea seem to have pushed Hanoi towards finally establishing the station.

ISRO operates a downrange tracking and telemetry station located in Biak, Indonesia.

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