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Vietnam, Asian Nations to Launch Satellite Network to Track Natural Disasters

Over the last year, Southeast Asia's weather patterns have been fickle to say the least. One minute, the streets of Saigon are disappearing under water, the next we're facing a months-long drought. In 2015, flooding in the Central Highlands threatened to wash people away as they drove home, planes were grounded in central Vietnam and an epic storm in Hanoi killed two people. While some managed to have a sense of humor about their predicament, the onslaught of weather-related emergencies was – and still is – concerning.

Now, however, several Asian nations are joining forces with Japan's Hokkaido and Tohoku Universities to launch a group of miniature satellites which will monitor weather patterns and storms across Asia, reports Nikkei Asian Review.

Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam are helping the two Japanese institutions fund a project which will see several 20-inch cube-shaped satellites, each of which weighs 110 pounds and comes in at 5% the size of a tyical satellite, sent into orbit. These devices will then photograph the earth's surface from a height of 300 to 500 kilometers, relaying information back to emergency responders in the event of a natural disaster. If successful, this satellite network will deliver weather information much faster than current methods.

According to the plan, Japan will send 25 of these satellites, priced at US$2.54 million each, to the International Space Station (ISS), prepping them before they're launched into orbit by Kibo, Japan's module on the ISS.

Moving forward, the goal is to have 50 satellites into orbit by 2020, however the 25 from the initial launch will be enough to cover Asia.

[Photo via NASA]

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