Science and Environment

Pinoy-built cubesat ready for launch in June

Rainier Allan Ronda - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — Maya-1, the first cubesatellite or cubesat built by Filipino engineers from the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), is ready for deployment and launch into orbit.

Joel Joseph Marciano Jr., acting director of the DOST’s Advanced Science and Technology Institute (ASTI), said the flight model was set for turnover to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) on April 1. 

JAXA will arrange for its transport to the International Space Station (ISS), from where it will be launched into orbit sometime in June.

“As you can see, it is ready. We’re just waiting for procedural matters,” Marciano said in a video press conference at the Kyushu Institute of Technology campus in Fukuoka prefecture in Japan last Monday.

Two of the DOST engineers who built Maya-1 under the guidance and supervision of the Kyutech, Joven Javier and Adrian Salces, joined Marciano at the video conference along with Kyutech president Yuji Oie.

Javier and Salces were sent by the Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development (PCIEERD) to Japan to participate in the Joint Global Multi-Nation Birds Satellite or Birds-2, a cross-border university project for the development and operation of cubesats.

The first Birds project was successfully implemented by participating countries Ghana, Mongolia, Nigeria and Bangladesh.

Under Birds-2, the Philippines will be joined by Malaysia and Bhutan, with each country building its own one-kilogram cubesat flight model to be launched and operated as a constellation in space. The Birds-2 cubesats are Maya-1 for the Philippines, Bhutan-1 for Butan, and UITMSAT-1 for Malaysia.

Following the turnover to JAXA, Japanese experts will conduct final tests on the cubesats on their spaceworthiness.

The cubesats are then expected to be brought to the ISS in June and released into low orbit by July utilizing the Japanese experimental module Kibo.

Maya-1, despite its miniature size compared to normal satellites, will have multiple missions, the DOST said.

Under the Birds-2 project, Maya-1, Bhutan-1 and UITMSAT-1 are expected to demonstrate the nanosatellite constellation store-and-forward (S&F) system for remote data collection, wherein the three member countries will have access to each other’s cubesats through their own ground receiving stations.

The Birds-2 cubesats are also equipped with a camera allowing image capture of one’s home country and amateur radio frequency for simple voice communications and sending of short messages.

Using the S&F system, the ASTI said Maya-1 targets to conduct soil moisture analysis of the country’s land surfaces for agricultural applications.

“We can do habitat monitoring especially in the most remote areas in our country,” Marciano said.

Elaborating on possible uses of Maya-1, Marciano said they could monitor dynamite fishing in far-flung areas of the archipelago through sensors installed in strategic seawaters.

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