With the successful deployment of the Maya-1, the first ever U1 cube satellite (CubeSat) built by Filipinos from the International Space Station (ISS) on August 10, 2018, the people behind its success promised that the best was yet to come.
Watching from the UP Electrical and Electronics Engineering Institute’s (UP EEEI) Reading Room, a contingent of officials from the Philippines and Japan joined members of the PHL-Microsat program to witness the real-time release of Maya-1 from the ISS through the Japanese Experimental module, Small Satellite Orbital Deployer (J-SSOD), through the ‘Kibo’ module. This was the same module used to deploy the first Philippine-built microsatellite, Diwata-1, back in 2016.
Video feed from the ISS just a few seconds before the release of Maya-1. (Video by Jun Madrid, UP MPRO)
The contingent was led by Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Secretary Fortunato dela Peña and Consul General Atsushi Kuwabara from the Embassy of Japan. They joined UP President Danilo L. Concepcion, UP Diliman Chancellor Michael Tan, Senior Expert Shigeki Kamigaichi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), EEEI Director John Richard Hizon, as well as members of the Institute and the press. The event was facilitated by Dr. Joel Joseph Marciano, Jr., program leader of the PHL-MicroSat project,
Maya-1 was designed and constructed primarily by Kyushu Institute of Technology (Kyutech) graduate students, Joven Javier and Adrian Salces, together with their Kyutech advisers under the second iteration of the BIRDS-2 Cube Satellite Project. The BIRDS project is a KyuTech-hosted interdisciplinary effort to assist non-spacefaring countries in building their own miniature satellites. As part of BIRDS-2, Maya-1 was launched together with two other CubeSats: UiTMSAT-1 from Malaysia and the Bhutan-1 from Bhutan.
Orbiting at an altitude of around 400 kilometers, Maya-1 is expected to pass over the country around three to four times a day and is expected to remain in orbit for a year. Among its missions is the demonstration of the Store and Forward (S&F) System, a remote data collection system where the satellite collects data from remote ground segments (GST) within its footprint, stores it, and forwards it to ground stations, including those from UP Diliman.
Among these data will be photographs of crops, river basins, forestlands and settlements, taken using two cameras with different focal lengths. Maya-1 can also be used to send and receive messages and sensor data from far-flung areas without cellular connections.
According to Dr. Marciano, the success of Maya-1 will allow both UP and the DOST to take their space science and technology efforts to the next level. He noted that starting January 2019, the EEEI will launch a variation of its Masters in Electrical Engineering program geared towards building our own local CubeSats. Scholarships under this program will include testing these built satellites in Japan, Marciano said.
The primary aim, he clarified, was the dissemination of space technology to other Philippine universities. This sentiment was echoed by EEEI Director Hizon, who lauded how Maya-1 helped give Filipinos the muchneeded expertise to further the country’s technological capabilities.
Finally, Sec. dela Peña teased the formation of a ‘Philippine Space Agency’, which he claims was one of the top three priorities of the DOST. The Secretary cited how Maya-1 was a pivotal step towards its fulfillment due to the lessons it provided the country’s Space Technology Development Program, not only scientifically, but also in the areas of education and human resource development.
When asked about the general importance of these efforts to national development, dela Peña answered directly: “If I have to be frank, we do not want to be left out.” (Andre DP Encarnacion, UP MPRO)