‘WE [the Philippines] do not want to be left out…we want to build our space technology capability” in order for the country to benefit from it, Science Secretary Fortunato T. de la Peña declared after Maya-1 cube satellite (CubeSat), the second Philippine satellite, was deployed from the International Space Station on the afternoon of August 10.
De la Peña, University of the Philippines President Danilo Concepcion, UP Diliman Chancellor Michael Tan, Japanese Embassy and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency officials witnessed—from the UP Electrical and Electronic Engineering (UP EEE) Institute—the deployment of Maya-1 through live streaming.
The CubeSats of Bhutan and Malaysia were deployed together with Maya-1 through the Japanese Experimental Module Small Satellite Orbital Deployer in the module, the same one used to deploy the Philippines’s Diwata-1 two years ago.
At a briefing after Maya-1’s deployment, the DOST chief said the bill in Congress on the development of the country’s space agency is a top priority of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).
“We are trying to build our own capability in building satellites because we foresee that we really need a go for this. We are also going to the next higher levels,” de la Peña said.
“This is just the start. Actually this is part of our long-term sustainability program for our space technology development agenda and we look forward to a continuation of this,” he said as he congratulated the DOST, UP and Japanese experts for the successful deployment of Maya-1.
The Philippines is the sixth among the 10 Asean countries which have space programs. The other Asean countries which have long developed their space agencies or have deployed satellites in space are Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam and Thailand, according to Seasia.co.
While Maya-1 was just deployed, Maya-2 is already in the drawing board. Research Engineer Israel Bautista told the BusinessMirror he will be bound for Japan next month to prepare for Maya-2.
De la Peña explained: “Capability building is very important. We cannot learn it by reading books or listening to lectures. We really have to do it. So this aspect of doing it [making the CubeSat in Japan] and launching it is a very important step.”
HE added: “This space tech program has many components. We have statistics, interpreting the messages, educational aspect, human-resource development, we have the industry development, because there can be industries that can come out of the space tech program.”
He said different outputs from the data that will be released or taken from the satellites may be used by government agencies, with beneficial uses for the country.
Possible applications of Maya-1’s radios, including the Store and Forward (S&F) system, are collecting data to generate early warnings for landslides and flash floods, complementing systems for monitoring health conditions of people in remote areas, and systems for tracking endangered species like the Philippine eagle, and fishing vessels.
Dr. Joel Joseph Marciano Jr., program leader of Philippine Scientific Earth Observation Microsatellite Program (PHL-Microsat) and director of DOST-Advance Science and Technology Institute, said the CubeSat development is still an experimental platform, but with the radios it is carrying, can store data and relay them when it passes over the mission control in Quezon City.
In monitoring floods, Marciano said, “If we can develop sensors that are compatible, we can transmit the data as long as it is within the capacity of the CubeSat.”
Maya-1, being part of an academic program, costs less than others at about $0.25 million, Marciano said. It will remain in orbit for one year.
The Maya-1 experts may get data from the CubeSat within next month. “We will first establish contact [at 8:01 p.m. on August 10] to receive the signal to know that it is [working]. Then we will start turning on different systems on how they perform,” Marciano said.
He said Maya-1 is on the second phase of the PHL-Microsat, named “State Support for Space tech and applications, mastery, innovation and advancement,” or “Stamina for Space.”
“We need that [stamina] for the country if we want to sustain the gains we have in the [space] program. It is not the end of the journey, it is just the beginning. All promises of the technology will just be realized…. We will try to maximize the learnings we will get,” Marciano explained.
He said starting January, PHL-Microsat is offering a graduate program, which is already existing, but this one has a track which will tap students who will build cube sats in UP EEE Institute.
“Our facilities are not yet complete, so part of the scholarship is testing in Japan,” he said.
The program’s name is Stepup, short for Space Science and Tech Proliferation through Partnerships under the Masters of Electrical Engineering.