First Filipino-made microsatellite launched into space

Posted on March 24, 2016

THE National Aeronautics and Space Administration has launched into space a cargo mission that included the Philippines’ first microsatellite on Wednesday.

DIWATA-1 microsatellite. Photo from
The 50-kilogram imaging satellite called DIWATA-1 is part of the 3,400-kg cargo of key science supplies onboard the Commercial Resupply Services Flight 6 that lifted off from Florida in the United States past 11 a.m. on Wednesday (Philippine time).

NASA live-streamed the launch of the mission, which used the Cygnus spacecraft of private aerospace manufacturer Orbital ATK, Inc.

Cygnus will deliver to the International Space Station (ISS) science and research, crew supplies and vehicle hardware, including DIWATA-1, according to information NASA posted online. The spacecraft is scheduled to reach and dock to the orbiting space laboratory on Sunday (Philippine time).

DIWATA-1 will be housed in the Japanese Experiment Module (JEM) called “Kibo” before its release into space towards the end of April, according to the Department of Science and Technology (DoST).

The JEM Small Satellite Orbital Deployer will deploy DIWATA-1 at an altitude of 400 kilometers from the Earth’s surface. The microsatellite will orbit approximately for the next 20 months.

DIWATA-1, which will “image” the Philippines twice daily, carries four specialized cameras capable of imaging weather patterns and agricultural productivity as well as high resolution imaging of the country’s land and water resources.

“DIWATA-1’s delivery to the ISS is a momentous event for the Philippines especially to the research team and its partners,” the DoST Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development (PCIEERD) said in a statement.

“It is one step further in the country’s long journey towards developing homegrown science and technology expertise and finally put the Philippines in the list of nations that have the capacity of venturing into space and beyond.”

DIWATA-1 was assembled by nine Filipino engineers stationed in Japan in the last 14 months under a research program the Philippine government, through the DoST, has started in 2014.

The microsatellite was a result of the flagship PhilMicrosat Program implemented by the University of the Philippines (UP) -- Diliman and the DoST Advanced Science and Technology Institute in partnership with the Tohoku University and Hokkaido University.

The same research team targets to launch another microsatellite (DIWATA-2) while DIWATA-1 is still in orbit in late 2017 or early 2018, according to the DoST-PCIEERD.

Alongside the development of the country’s first microsatellite, the government installed a satellite ground receiving station in Subic to receive images from DIWATA-1 and other select commercial satellites.

The government is also constructing the UP Diliman Microsatellite Research and Instructional Facility that will serve as training hub for future space technology research and development activities. -- Keith Richard D. Mariano