US aircraft with Philippines’s first microsatellite launched into space

Rainier Allan Ronda - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – The US commercial spacecraft Cygnus carrying the Philippines’ first microsatellite Diwata-1 was successfully launched into space yesterday morning in preparation for the satellite’s eventual deployment into orbit next month.

Carlos Primo David, executive director of the Department of Science and Technology’s Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development (DOST-PCIEERD), said that with the successful launch of Orbital ATK’s Cygnus spacecraft that carried Diwata-1 as one of its 7,500 pounds of payload, the next step was for the release into orbit of Diwata-1 in late April.

Cygnus is expected to dock at the International Space Station (ISS) around six hours after its launch from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

At the ISS, Diwata-1 will be placed inside the Japanese Experiment Module (JEM) Small Satellite Orbital Deployer (J-SSOD) nicknamed “Kibo.”

Towards the end of April, Kibo will release Diwata-1 into space at an altitude of 400 kilometers from the earth’s surface.

David said Diwata-1’s deployment into orbit was tentatively scheduled on April 20 or 21.

He pointed out that the main event for the DOST and engineers in the University of the Philippines in Diliman is when Diwata-1 proves it could do its mission of sending satellite images of the Philippines’ land and waters from outer space a week or so after it is deployed into orbit.

“We’re hoping that by the first week of May we’ll have the first few images from Diawata-1,” David told reporters.

David led UP Diliman officials led by chancellor Michael Tan and vice chancellor for Research and Development Fidel Nemenzo and DOST PCIEERD engineers and scientists in viewing the live stream telecast of the launch of the Cygnus spacecraft via the Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral yesterday morning at the UP Diliman Electrical and Electronics Engineering Institute conference room.

A video conference was also held that included the nine Filipino engineers and scientists currently based in Tohoku University and Hokkaido University in Japan where they designed and built Diwata-1 over a period of less than one year.

“This is one step in our great mission. But it’s a great step,” Yukihiro Takahashi, director of the Space Mission Center of Hokkaido University which is providing technical assistance to the Philippines’ DOST for its microsatellite project, said of the successful Cygnus launch.

In the weeks leading up to the release into orbit of Diwata-1, DOST-PCIEERD and another unit, the DOST Advanced Science and Technology Institute, will speed up work on the setting up of a temporary ground receiving station in the DOST ASTI building that will receive the satellite images taken by Diwata-1.

The permanent ground receiving station, the Philippine Earth Data Resources and Observation (PEDRO) Center, will also be built in the next few weeks.

David said that there were changes in the location of PEDRO, from Subic Bay in Zambales to Diliman, Quezon City.

The nine Filipino engineers in Japan are already working Diwata-2 that will be launched later.

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