Friday, June 14, 2024

PH micro-satellite program to continue as gov’t invests on space tech

After the initial success of its micro-satellite program, the Philippine government will invest substantially in space technology development in the next 10 years, Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Secretary Fortunato Dela Pena said on Thursday, Nov. 17.

DOST sec. Fortunato dela Pena. Photo credit: DOST Caraga
DOST sec. Fortunato dela Pena. Photo credit: DOST Caraga

“How can we give our people early warnings when threatened by natural disasters? How can we make communities more resilient?” These are just among the country’s concerns that can be addressed through space technology, according to Dela Pena.

For this goal, the DOST has crafted the National Space Development Program for 2016-2026. The strategy aims to focus on key development areas such as national security and development, space research and development, hazard management and climate studies.

Dela Pena cited the lack of trained local experts in aerospace engineering and related fields, as well as the country’s dependence on foreign satellites for data gathering, as the major challenges faced by the Philippine space development sector.

To be globally competitive, Dela Pena said there has to be a conducive environment for aerospace companies willing to invest in the country. Also, there has to be a clear national space policy committed to space industry, and strong international linkages should be developed, he added.

For the agency’s long-term goals of strengthening its satellite development capacity and to create a robust space industry, Dela Pena said the DOST has allotted P1 billion for the program for 2017-2018. “Beyond 2018, it’s P2 billion,” he continued.

Dela Pena said that initial strategy to produce a substantial number of trained people is to send them abroad. It may be recalled that the government has sent a team of Filipino engineers to Japan to undergo an extensive course about microsatellite and develop the country’s first microsatellite — the Diwata-1.

Since its launch in outer space last April, Diwata-1 has taken high-resolution images of the earth and of the country. These images are used for remote sensing and research.

Eventually, the Philippines might provide the training locally, said Dela Pena.

He also noted that prior to this space technology program, the government has already invested P840 million for the PHL-Microsat program. The amount included the budget for developing the Diwata-1, establishment of receiving stations, the scholarships, and the development of Diwata-2.

DOST said it is currently busy with the research and development for Diwata-2, which will be launched in 2018.

Meanwhile, an astrophysicist said the Philippines has the capability to become the hub of space technology and space applications in Southeast Asia where engineers, scientists, and industry stakeholders around the region can converge.

Dr. Rogel Mari D. Sese made the pronouncement during a press conference for the 23rd Session of the Asia-Pacific Regional Space Agency Forum (APRSAF-23) held at the Sofitel Philippines Plaza Manila from Nov. 15-18, 2016.

Sese is the focal person for the Philippine Space Science Education Program of the Department of Science and Technology-Science Education Institute (DOST-SEI).

?We?re looking toward building our own space industry,? shared Sese. We are a little bit behind. But if we do things right, we can take the lead in the Southeast Asian region.?

Sese, a member of the APRSAF Space Environment Utilization Working Group, claimed that having a space industry in the Philippines will translate to jobs not only for astrophysicists, engineers, and others directly involved with the space industry, but also for support personnel.

?It had been stated that we need around 800 aerospace engineers and scientists in the next 10 years. Studies have shown that for every one person that is directly involved in the space field, there are four other people who serve as support personnel,? Sese explained.

With a local space industry generating a lot of jobs, the brain drain that currently characterizes local manpower will hopefully be put to a halt.

?The Philippines is pursuing this space technology development because we are also asking our lawmakers to have a bill approved for the creation of a Philippine space agency and a national space development program for the next ten years,? said APRSAF co-chair and DOST undersecretary Rowena Cristina L. Guevara. ?I assure you space technology is very useful for this country.?

The proposed measures are House Bill 3637 and Senate Bill 1211, which both aim to legislate a ?Philippine Space Development and Utilization Policy? and create a ?Philippine Space Agency.?

Aside from the Philippine Science Education Program, SEI is also in constant collaboration with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency for several space awareness programs for local schools, and is currently working toward including space education in the K-12 curriculum for both elementary and high school levels, among others. — with reports from Ma. Cristina C. Arayata, PNA


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