Excitement, hope as PH launches own microsatellite

Shaira Panela
Excitement, hope as PH launches own microsatellite
After a successful launch into space, the Philippines now looks forward to the deployment of its first microsatellite, Diwata-1

MANILA, Philippines – The audience at the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman’s Electrical and Electronics Engineering Institute who were watching the launch of the Philippines’ first homegrown microsatellite could not contain their excitement on Wednesday morning, March 23.

There were laughter, oohs and aahs, and cheers during the countdown to lift-off of the Atlas V rocket, which was carrying the Cygnus unmanned spacecraft. Cygnus’ payload includes the Philippines’ Diwata-1 microsatellite, along with several other nanosatellites and science experiments which will be brought to the International Space Station (ISS). (READ: PH microsatellite Diwata-1 heads to Int’l Space Station)

Kaye Kristine Vergel, one of the UP students sent to Hokkaido University in Japan to work on the payload of Diwata-1, said through a video conference that their team was very excited for the launch.

On the other side of Japan, in Tohoku University, team member Ariston Gonzales said: “Everyone is happy and excited for the launch is successful. We’re hoping for the best for the ISS release.”

Japanese consultant Professor Yukihiro Takahashi also said that he was very pleased and relieved after the successful launch.

Everyone at the launch viewing party in UP – from the top university and government officials to the team members hooked up via video conference – was hopeful for the continuous success of the country’s “space fairy,” Diwata-1.

UP Diliman Chancellor Michael Tan said that after the successful launch, Diwata-1 will be able to help produce more valuable data toward the development of better science-oriented programs and policies for the country.

SPACE-BOUND. The Atlas V rocket lifts off. Image courtesy of NASA

Tan also said that they are looking into releasing the data for public use in the future.

Diwata-1 is expected to stay in orbit for about 20 months after its expected release from the space station by April 2016. It will orbit the Earth at an altitude of 400-420 km from above the surface. During that period, it will take high-resolution images of the Philippines twice daily.

Dr Carlo Primo David, executive director of the Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development (PCIEERD), said that pretty much like a fairy, Diwata-1 will “look over the country as a whole,” monitoring environmental changes, keeping track of natural hazards, and looking into marine and agricultural data.

“The images (from Diwata-1) are really for research, especially for government agencies like DA, PAGASA, DENR, among others,” David said during the viewing.

A second microsatellite is intended to be launched between late 2017 and early 2018. Named Diwata-2, this spacecraft will orbit the Earth at a relatively higher altitude, especially after Diwata-1 finishes its mission.

DUAL SCREENS. One screen shows the NASA live stream, while another shows video conference windows of the Diwata-1 team members in Japan. Photo by Shaira Panela

“Every time Diwata-1 orbits, it moves closer to the Earth. Therefore, at some point, gravity will pull it back to the surface,” explained David.

Meanwhile, National Space Development Program (NSDP) head Dr Rogel Mari Sese told Rappler that Diwata-1 “paves the way for building technical expertise and capabilities of Filipino scientists and engineers in developing space systems.”

“In the future, this will hopefully lead to more advanced satellites to be developed by Filipinos,” Sese said.

The NSDP is also PCIEERD-funded like the Philippine Microsatellite (PHL-Microsat) Program, which oversees the Diwata microsatellites. The NSDP’s main task is to lay the groundwork and foundation for a future Philippine space agency.

Sese also said that he hopes these types of events will help increase interest in science, especially in space science technology and applications in the Philippines.

“We hope that this would demonstrate that space is within the reach of Filipinos and that the sky is no longer the limit for us,” Sese said. “In the future, we look forward to other space developments and hopefully the creation of our own national space agency.” Rappler.com

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