First PHL-made nanosatellite presented

The first nanosatellite being built in the Philippines by Filipino engineering scholars was presented during the commemoration of the first anniversary of the launching of Diwata-2 microsatellite on October 29 at a forum at UP-EEEI .

Story & photos by Lyn Resurreccion

The first nanosatellite being built in the Philippines will soon join the Maya-1 cube satellite (cubesat), which is now in orbit in space.

The 10 cm3 nanosatellite is one of 10 new small satellites that are in the laboratory and at different stages of development.

Dr. Joel Joseph S. Marciano Jr., acting director of Department of Science and Technology’s (DOST) Advanced Science and Technology Institute (Asti), presented the tentatively named Birds-2S cubesat during the commemoration of the first anniversary of the launching of Diwata-2 microsatellite on October 29.

Dr. Joel Joseph S. Marciano Jr., acting director of DOS T-Asti and program leader of Stamina4Space, speaks at the forum, dubbed “Diwata-2: A Year in Space,” on October 29 commemorating the first anniversary of Diwata-2’s launching in space. The event was held at UP-EEEI .

Dubbed “Diwata-2: A Year in Space,” the event’s theme was “Translating knowledge into local technologies and applications.” It was held at the University of the Philippines Diliman Electrical and Electronics Engineering Institute (UP-EEEI).

Diwata-2, a 50-kilogram Earth observation microsatellite, was the country’s third small satellite deployed into space through a 600-km Sun-Synchronous Orbit in Tanegashima Space Center in Kagoshima, Japan, on October 29, 2018.

10 small satellites underdevelopment

The new 1-kilogram cubesat is being built by eight engineering scholars under the Space Science and Technology Proliferation through University Partnerships (STeP-UP) of the the Space Technology and Applications Mastery, Innovation and Advancement (Stamina4Space) Program of the DOST.

It is expected to be launched in orbit next year.

Marciano, also the program leader of Stamina4Space, told the BusinessMirror at the sidelines of the forum that the 10 small satellites under development are in addition to the three satellites already in orbit—the Diwata-1 and Diwata-2 microsatellites, and the Maya-1 cubesat.

He explained that all the 13 satellites “have the finger prints of Filipinos in various forms,” but the cubesat is 100 percent being made in the Philippines by Filipinos.

The first three satellites in orbit were made by Filipino engineers in collaboration with Japanese experts in Hokkaido and Tohoku universities in Japan.

Captured 46.06 percent of PHL’s land area

Stamina4Space PHL-50 Project Leader Dr. Marc Talampas, used numbers in summarizing the events’ presentations, besides mentioning the 13 satellites in orbit and underdevelopment, he enumerated the following: 46.06 percent, the Philippine land area that Diwata-2 has captured in images; 672, the number of screws that had to be checked after every vibration test during Diwata-2’s development, showing the meticulous engineering needed; three, the “trinity of vision”—light source, object and detector, the basic principles that Diwata-2’s optical payloads operate; and 101, for Philippines-Oscar 101 (PO-101), which was  designated by AMSAT to Diwata-2’s amateur radio unit on April 11 this year.

Marciano said Diwata-2 might be able to capture 100 percent of total land area of the Philippines within a year. He explained that the 46.06 percent represented only the clear images taken by the satellite, with the cloudy images removed.

Among Diwata-2’s mission is to provide satellite date for agriculture, fisheries, forestry and other sectors.

It aids in disaster response management through assessment of damages caused by natural disasters by taking pre- and post disaster images; provide means of communication for emergency responders through amateur radio; and through automatic packet reporting system.

Data users

Current registered users of Diwata-2’s web site have reached over 800, Stamina4Space report said.

Data obtained by the BusinessMirror showed that among those who use Diwata-2’s web site are government agencies, such as the DOST, Philippine National Police, Armed Forces of the Philippines, Departments of Environment and Natural Resources, Agriculture, Transportation, National Defense; public and private universities and colleges; high schools; news agencies; private businesses; local government units; national and local disaster agencies; Namria; foreign universities; and others.

Marciano said that in some cases, agencies need a combination of data from Diwata-2 and zfrom other satellites from which the Philippines has access.

These agencies include the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, the Sugar Regulatory Administration, National Mapping and Resource Information Authority, Department of Budget and Management, all of which already have agreements with DOST-ASTI.

Municipal governments, he said, also ask for data for their land use.

Science, not commercial satellite

One year after the launching of Diwata-2, Marciano explained that more time is needed to be able to “reap its benefits.”

“Our satellites are built in an academic setting, not professional. It is for research…. We are trying to discover something new. We do experiments. The mindset of designing a scientific quality satellite is different from a commercial satellite,” he said.

He said commercial satellites, which sell their results, are tried and tested, the results are exact and no experimentation is needed.

“If you want to focus your satellite on the Philippines, you have to do a geo-stationary orbit, but you have to spend millions of dollars for a high-resolution camera,” he said.

Amateur radio for communication

Marciano said besides the satellite images, Diwata-2’s amateur radio unit (ARU) can be used by amateur radio users.

He said Diwata-2’s signal can be used by people using ham radio if there is no cell phone signal, or if one is in a secluded place, and especially during disaster where cell phone cignals are out.

Marciano said its users reach as far as Europe and in communicating between Japan and the Philippines.

The Stamina4Space team said Diwata-2’s ARU payload has seen increasing uptake from various users, with ham radio enthusiasts actively posting and sharing their experiences in social media and online platforms.

Continue the momentum

DOST Undersecretary Dr. Rowena Guevara, for Research and Development, said in her opening message, “The event’s theme, ‘Translating knowledge to local technologies and applications’ captures what the team has been doing since then.”

She added: “We hope to continue this momentum by fostering more local and international linkages and choosing more skilled and passionate researchers in this field in paving the way for future satellites, not only future Diwatas but possibly even more sophisticated satellites that bear the names of more Philippine icons that can proudly symbolize how far the Filipino stamp of ingenuity and innovation can take us.”

From resource-based to knowledge-based economy

Executive Director Dr. Enrico Paringit, of DOST-Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development, in his message said PCIEERD is bullish that “we will be able to expand, increase and extend whatever gains we have made in the space industry.”

He added: “At the end of the day, we want to propel the Philippine economy through value-adding by way of leveraging on advance technologies. We are transitioning from a resource-based economy to a knowledge-based economy. And the knowledge that you gained and have applied will enable this kind of transition.”

Paringit said that even if the country still has to harness its national resources “a crucial part of that will be to harness these technologies in order to utilize our precious resources in a sustainable manner.”

Citing one of the missions of Diwata-2 that is to monitor the country’s natural resources and environment, he said, “We would like to see these investments in space technology and space systems engineering as ways for us to be able to attain sustainability and development.”

DOST-PCIEERD monitors the Stamina4Space program.

Space tech key to developing people, data, industry

Marciano highlighted the importance of space technology research in developing people, data and industry, which are the  three innovation thrusts of the Stamina4Space program.

“If we don’t start and sustain this, we will forever be consumers of technology and data provided by other countries,” he said.

He added: “We aim to derive economic benefits from space—getting data, building electronics and instruments that can feed into industry through differentiated products and services, training people like the young people that you see here—so that we are not continuously left behind. The future lies in getting data and information from wherever we can get it [and] that includes the strategic vantage point of space.”

Marciano said with the evolution of Diwata-1 and Diwata-2 “we are now able to respond more and in a better way to the needs of our country with data from space. We are even able to internalize the slogan ‘We put computers in orbit’ for data, industry and people.”

He said, “We want to communicate to our countrymen that we are trying to get better at making space technology work for the Philippines.”

After the forum, guided tours of the  University Laboratory for Small Satellite and Space Engineering Systems (ULyS3ES)  facility were opened to the public to showcase the technologies onboard the microsatellite, as well as the localization efforts being made by the Stamina4Space Program’s different project teams.

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