PH marks milestone with launch of Maya-1 CubeSat into int’l space station

By Clarist Mae Zablan

The country’s first cube satellite (CubeSat), named Maya-1, was successfully launched to the International Space Station (ISS) on Friday, June 29.

PHL-Microsat program leader Joel Marciano talks via remote link to Filipino graduate student Joven Javier during the launch of Maya-1 into the ISS

This is the second significant milestone that the Philippines has accomplished in the field of space exploration after the launch of the country’s first micro-satellite, Diwata-1, into the ISS in 2016.

The 10-cc nanosatellite, developed by Joven Javier and Adrian Salces, Filipino graduate students currently studying at Kyushu Institute of Technology (Kyutech) in Japan, reached ISS without problems and is set to orbit by August.

“It feels good na, gumaan nang konti yung feeling because it’s a milestone for us, especially for the scholars in Japan. But it’s not yet done, so we’re still looking forward to the actual release into orbit and our first contact with Maya-1,” said Joel Marciano, Jr., program leader of PHL-Microsat, during the launch’s live viewing at the University of the Philippines Diliman.

Maya-1 was transported through SpaceX’s Falcon-9 rocket, which took off from Cape Canaveral at Florida at 5:41 PM, Philippine Time. Marciano said the hitching of the CubeSat, which weighed around 1 kilogram, cost around $60,000 to $80,000.

Along with Maya-1, other CubeSats under Kyutech’s BIRDS-2 Project — Bhutan’s BHUTAN-1 and Malaysia’s UiTMSAT-1 – were also part of the payload of Falcon-9 rocket.

According to Salces, the CubeSat has three main missions: the CAM Mission where the satellite will take photographs of the home country; a Data Digipeter Mission which can be used through amateur radios; and a Store-and-Forward Mission for getting data from secluded areas without GSM and Internet connections.

“In the past, nanosatellites have been used for technology demonstration or for educational purpose. In this [Store-and-Forward] mission, we are trying to look for practical applications of the CubeSat,” he said in a video call from Kyutech.

Marciano also explained the reason behind the name given to the country’s first CubeSat . “The name Maya, we associate it with birds that are ubiquitous and all around… We named this CubeSat Maya because we see in the future computing becoming so ubiquitous that we call it a CubeSat, but actually it’s a computer, it just happened to be in space,” he said.

A sample of a CubeSat that doesn’t quite resemble Maya-1 but has the same size

For future endeavors, Javier expressed that they are seeking to develop satellites right in the Philippines.

“We have satellites na gawa ng Pinoy, pero it’s made abroad, so we have to make a new milestone na gawa ng Pinoy, and gawa dito sa Pilipinas. So that is the next milestone na we’re going to target,” he said.

Maya-1 was developed under the Philippines Scientific Earth Observation Microsatellite (PHL-Microsat), which was implemented by UP and the Advanced Science and Technology Institute of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST-ASTI) in partnership with Kyutech. The Diwata-1 micro-satellite was also produced under the same research program.

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