THE Department of Science and Technology (DOST) is launching not just one, but two microsatellites as the country’s ambitious plan of sending its own satellites into space rolls out.
Newly installed Science Undersecretary for S&T Services Rowena Cristina Guevara, who is also the concurrent executive director of Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development, made the announcement recently at the media launch of the country’s venture into space technology at the University of the Philippines Diliman Electrical and Electronics Engineering Institute (UPD-EEEI) in Quezon City.
Through the Philippine Scientific Earth Observation Micro-Satellite Program (Phil-Microsat), the country will launch its microsatellite, called Diwata, in 2016, while the other satellite will be set off in 2017.
The two microsatellites are expected to hugely help improve and strengthen the country’s capability in disaster management, weather forecasting, agriculture, mining, fisheries and forestry.
The DOST is now collaborating with two Japanese universities—the Tohoku University and Hokkaido University—in building its capabilities in microsatellite technology. The project staff from UPD-EEEI are having hands-on training in developing the micro-satellite Diwata.
According to Guevara, it is time for the country to invest on its space technology as it relies heavily on commercial satellite data on some of its programs, such as the Project Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards (Project NOAH).
Along with the microsatellites, the DOST will also establish its ground receiving station called Philippine Earth Data Resources Observation (Pedro) in Subic Bay Satellite Service Facility. Satellite data and images are vital tools in studying various weather patterns, agricultural conditions, marine behavior, and forest degradation which is needed to make important decisions, especially in the field of disaster risk management.
Currently, the country uses cutting-edge sensor technologies to improve weather forecasting to mitigate the loss of lives and properties during typhoons.
Other immediate possible uses of satellite data can be seen in the mining industry, territorial border surveillance, and national security.
Guevara added that the country’s venture into microsatellite technology will not only save billions of public funds but will also help the country’s experts develop high-level capabilities in space technology. “Let us not look too much on the cost of our investments in space technologies,” Guevara explained. “Rather, let us look at how it will give us development capabilities.”
The first microsatellite will be orbiting the Earth for a year with an altitude of 400 kilometers from the ground. It has a diameter of 550x550x350 millimeters, and will be passing the Philippine islands four times a day with a duration of 6 minutes per pass. It can capture 900 images per pass. Diwata belongs to the 50-kilogram classification of microsatellites.
The second microsatellite program is now undergoing development studies in UP and is expected to hover into space at a much longer time due to its higher-altitude flight.
Micro-satellites are small artificial satellites with smaller mass and size and usually weigh under 500 kg.
This type of satellite is much cheaper to develop and produce. Microsatellites cost around $3 million to $5 million,while larger satellites would cost $100 million to develop. This cost does not include the launcher that costs around P50 million.
Microsatellites are advantageous because they can be sent to missions that larger satellites could not accomplish, such as constellations for low-data rate communications, using formations to gather data from multiple points, in-orbit inspection of larger satellites, and university-related research.