PH marks first year in space of Diwata-1 micro-satellite

By Edd K. Usman

The Philippines marked a technological milestone on Thursday, April 27, as the country’s first micro-satellite, the Diwata-1, turned a year old in space.

The Diwata-1 before it was launched into space last year

The Diwata-1 before it was launched into space last year

The Department of Science and Technology (DOST), the agency responsible for creating the program that sent the satellite into space, led the commemoration at the Advanced Science and Technology Institute (ASTI) office at the University of the Philippines Diliman, Quezon City.

Diwata-1, which was developed under the Philippines- Scientific Earth Observation Microsatellite (PHL-Microsat) project, was designed and assembled by nine Filipino engineers in collaboration with Japanese engineers at the Tohoku University (TU) and Hokkaido University (HU) in Japan.

Dr. Joel Joseph S. Marciano Jr., ASTI acting director and program leader of PHL-Microsat, underlined the achievements of the project in the event dubbed “Pinoy Showcase of Space Technologies” or PSST.

“The main highlight of the inaugural PSST is to showcase the use of our very own ground control station to download image data from the Diwata-1 micro-satellite and the KOMPSAT-3 (Korean) satellite during one of their scheduled passes over the Philippines,” said Marciano.

He said the timing of the observance is attuned with the theme of highlighting technology innovation. “We chose to mark the occasion of Diwata-1’s first year in orbit by focusing on demonstrating current local capability in satellite ground mission control,” he said.

Marciano this new capability is enabled by the Philippine Earth Data Resource Observation (Pedro), the ground station at the ASTI compound that receives data from Diwata-1

The PHL-Microsat, including Pedro, which also functions as a training facility for space technology, are part of the DOST’s Space Development Program launched in 2014.

The Philippine Earth Data Resource Observation (Pedro) housed at the ASTI compound in UP DIliman

The Philippine Earth Data Resource Observation (Pedro) housed at the ASTI compound in UP DIliman

DOST and UP officials as well as members of the media were present when the micro-satellite passed over the Philippines, taking an image of Boracay Island at 12:52 in the afternoon.

Marciano said micro-satellite’s passing over the country was “serendipitous” as it usually travels over the Philippines at a higher altitude. “Today,” he said, “she passed the Philippines at a lower orbit.”

The DOST partnered with UP and the two Japanese universities — TU and HU — for the construction of the country’s first satellite in the 50-kg class.

The PHL-Microsat program is being monitored by the Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development (DOST-PCIEERD).

DOST secretary Fortunato T. de la Peña assured continuing support for the PHL-Microsat program, saying the Duterte administration has already approved a P24-billion, 10-year Space Development Program (SPD).

The nine Filipino engineers -- eight young boys and a young lady -- who developed the Diwata-1 strike a pose at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) in Tsukuba City, Japan during the launch last year

The nine Filipino engineers — eight young boys and a young lady — who developed the Diwata-1 strike a pose at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) in Tsukuba City, Japan during the launch last year

When he assumed the DOST leadership, Dela Pena said he was often asked whether he would continue the program.

“The thing that really convinced them (administration officials) is the potential benefits that we will get, not just for disaster mitigation but we the ability to monitor our resources and for national security,” said Dela Peña.

“More than that, there is the human resource development program. We lack that kind of human resources on space technology,” he added.

Dela Peña recalled he was even more inspired to sustain the PHL-Microsat program when he witnessed in Japan the graduation of four Filipino students who took their masters at HU and TU, citing the advanced laboratory where the nine Filipino engineers who designed and assembled Diwata-1 work.

“I think we will continue to have these people go on training on space technology,” he said.

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