PH now paving the road for self-reliance in space technology

By Mielmia Marie T. Baquiran

Just recently, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) declared its commitment to push for the creation of a national space agency that aims to consolidate all space technology endeavors of various government agencies.

Diwata-1 being released from ISS, taken by astronaut Tim Peake (Credit: JAXA/NASA)

Diwata-1 being released from ISS, taken by astronaut Tim Peake (Credit: JAXA/NASA)

This will address the country’s need to venture more into space technology initiatives for governance, national security, disaster preparation and mitigation, and monitoring of weather patterns.

The establishment of a space agency to boost satellite technology development is a promising undertaking and offers a streak of hope to researchers and experts who have seen its advantages.

Among the researchers and experts who have reiterated the need for the country to build self-reliance in space technology is Joel Joseph S. Marciano, acting director of DOST’s Advanced Science and Technology Institute (ASTI) and project leader of Philippines’ first micro-satellite — Diwata-1.

In his lecture among the Fellows of the 20th Graciano Lopez Jaena Community Journalism Workshop on Science Reporting at the University of the Philippines-Diliman, Marciano emphasized that we need to take advantage of space technology to address our needs for earth observation.

Our country is abundant in natural resources but prone to natural calamities and disasters. Many of our resources are focused on disaster risk management, but the incessant need for us to become resilient continues. Given this challenge, Marciano said that we should be a country with “sensors.”

“We need to sustain effective mechanisms for faster turnaround ‘sensing’ of our environment. Our country, being prone to changes in the environment and natural phenomenon, needs something that can observe from high above, like a micro-satellite that looks at the archipelago in a wider angle,” Marciano said.

Space technologies like micro-satellites are helpful in assessing the adverse effects of hazards and disasters to the environment, resource inventory and assessment, infrastructure planning and monitoring, and in governance.

The launching of Diwata-1, the Philippines’ first observation micro-satellite, was a big leap in the country’s space technology development. It was developed through the Philippine-Microsatellite (PHL-Microsat) Program, a three-year program that aims to build our capacity in space technology.

The engineers and scientists behind the Diwata-1 underwent through the PHL-Microsat program. They earned degrees in two universities in Japan and acquired actual experience in testing, launching, and utilizing the Philippines’ own micro-satellites with guidance from Japanese experts.

Diwata-1, a 50-kilogram micro-satellite was successfully released from International Space Station and was deployed into low-earth orbit via the Japanese Experiment Module “Kibo” on April 26, 2016. It will stay in orbit for 20 months.

Diwata-1 is equipped with four different cameras. It has a high-precision telescope that determines damage extent from disasters and monitors heritage sites. Its space-borne multi-spectral imager monitors ocean and vegetative activities. It also has a wide filed camera for observing cloud patterns and weather disturbances.

Marciano also announced the building of Diwata-2, a continuation of the country’s venture into building more micro-satellites. He emphasized the need to educate, capacitate, and train young students, engineers and scientists so that we can build more observation technologies.

“The launching of smaller satellites into space has become affordable. We can do it in the academe, involving university student to build these space technologies, through a program that will sustain their education, capacity and training,” Marciano said.

The successful launching of Diwata-1 is the country’s breakthrough in observation satellites. Meanwhile, the creation of a national space agency will continue to pave the road for the country’s venture into space technology.

The author, a writer of the Cagayan Provincial Information Office of the Provincial Government of Cagayan, was among the Fellows of the 20th Graciano Lopez Jaena Community Journalism Workshop on Science Reporting held at UP Diliman, Quezon City on Nov. 28 to Dec. 2, 2016.

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