Jan 17, 2016

PH to join 9-country consortium to deploy 50 microsatellites

(by Edd K. Usman, January 16, 2016) Tsukuba City, Japan – The Philippines will join the consortium of nine Asian countries that will manufacture and deploy 50 microsatellites that could capture images of the whole Planet Earth.

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This was announced early this week by Department of Science and Technology’s (DOST) Dr. Amelia Guevara during the turnover of “Diwata-1,” the first microsatellite designed and constructed by the Philippines. “Diwata-1” was turned over to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

“Once we have launched our microsatellite we will be part of that network. This is a network of several microsatellites (of many countries),” said Guevara.

“Imagine 50 microsatellites (in space that provide volumes of data from imagery of the earth),” she said.

Engineer Raul Sabularse, deputy executive director of the Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Research and Development (PCIEERD), said the plan is a welcome development.

He cited the advantages of having many satellites linked up, to give a country access to all the alliance members’ data from the sky. PCIEERD funded the Diwata-1 microsatellite and its “sister” Diwata-2 which will be developed this year. Diwata-2 is scheduled for launch and deployment in 2017.

Officials of JAXA, Hokkaido University (HU), Tohoku University (TU), and the DOST have spoken about the plans.

Prof. Yukihisha Takahashi of TU confirmed this during the turnover on Jan. 13 of Diwata-1. He said the nine countries in the consortium are Japan, Philippines Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Bangladesh, and Mongolia.

The target number of microsatellites is 50 for the alliance, he said, “but it is not mandatory.”

Takahashi, director of Space Science Center/Creative Research Institution and Department of Cosmosciences of HU, expressed the willingness of his institution to collaborate with other countries.

“We have already started manufacturing the satellite of Vietnam,” he said, adding that five Japanese universities are involved, with his university doing the sensors, the most important component.

FINALIZING THE MOU

“We are now finalizing the MOU of the Asian consortium, setting the direction for sharing data, technology, and applications,” said Takahashi, one of the mentors (sensei) of the nine young Filipino engineers who assembled Diwata-1 in collaboration with HU and TU.

“We want to establish a constellation of 50 satellites,” he said.

“If we can share the satellites, we can easily increase the data. Once a country joins the constellation the whole data (gathered through the satellites) from other countries, that means 10 times bigger,” said Takahashi.

SPACE TECHNOLOGY

Dr. Joel Joseph S. Marciano, Jr., project leader of the Philippine Scientific Earth Observation Microsatellite (PHL-Microsat), said one of the major goals of the project is to speed the creation of the Philippine Space Agency (PSA) aimed at sustaining and scaling up research and development in space technology.

As part of the microsatellite project, a ground station dubbed PEDRO (Philippine Earth Data Resource and Observation Center –is now being established in Subic, Zambales.

Target completion date of the ground station is in May when, hopefully, Diwata-1 shall have been able to capture images from space using its remote sensing payloads.

Marciano said the space agency is separate from the PHL-Microsat project.

In Manila, Dr. Carlos Primo David, executive director of PCIEERD, recalled that a set of satellite images taken of “Yolanda Corridor” bought by the government from commercial/foreign providers cost P56 million.

He reiterated that Diwata-1 can be used to enhance weather detection and forecasts, monitor agricultural growth patterns, for fishery to locate schools of fish for fishermen, monitor forest cover, as well as for national security involving the country’s territorial waters.

DIWATA-1, LOW EARTH ORBIT

David said Diwata-1 is a Low Earth Orbit (LEO) Satellite to be sent in space at an estimated altitude of 400 to 420 kms and with a speed of about seven kilometers per second.

He said Diwata has a payload of four imaging equipment, such as a high-precision telescope (HPT), a space-borne Multispectral Imager with Liquid Tunable Filter, a Wide Field Camera (WFC), and a Middle Field Camera (MFC).

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