First made-in-Vietnam satellite deployed

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A NASA photo shows the Kibo robot arm putting three cubic satellites, including Vietnam's first homemade space machine (middle) into orbit Thursday night (Hanoi time).

A robotic arm from the International Space Station was used to put the first satellite produced by Vietnam into orbit on Thursday night.

F1, built by a team from FPT University, was put into space in a pod with two other satellites. One was a joint project between the NASA Ames Research Center and San Jose State University, and the other was from Japan's Fukuoka Institute of Technology.

The deployment was made 10:45 p.m. (Hanoi time), more than an hour after two other Japanese cubic satellites were deployed in another pod.

A report by AMSAT-UK said Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide put the pod into an airlock, which was depressurized and exposed to the vacuum of space via an automatic door. The Kibo robotic arm was then used to move the pod away from the station so the satellites could be deployed.

Truong Ngoc Khanh, from FPT University -- which is owned and operated by Hanoi based telecom company FPT -- told news website VnExpress "I was so happy when F1 left the space station successfully. We have waited for this moment for nearly four years."

F-1 began transmitting data 30 minutes after deployment from the station. Data include information about its own health such as battery and solar cell voltages and temperature readings.

It will have a lifetime of up to five months before it burns up in the earth's atmosphere, experts said.

The satellite is a 10 centimeter cube weighing one kilogram. FPT University spent around VND4 billion (US$191,800) and more than two years building the satellite, beginning in late 2008. It was designed to take 640x480-pixel photos and transmit data to earth at 1,200 bits per second.

Dr. Tran The Trung, from FPT University, said F1 was a kind of test to see how good FPT design and production are.

The university wants to cooperate with local and overseas partners to produce more satellites for naval and jungle observation. Vietnam is currently using two larger satellites, both built by US-based weapons maker Lockheed Martin Corporation.

The Kibo robot arm has made the launching of small satellites a much easier operation than in the past.

Previous deployments of amateur radio satellites were only possible when astronauts performed an Extravehicular Activity, or a spacewalk.

F1 was brought to the International Space Station on July 21 and the deployment was first scheduled for September 27, but then delayed.

The deployment was made the same day as the 55th anniversary of the launch of the world's first satellite Sputnik 1.

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