PH sends 2nd cube satellite into international space station

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The Philippines marked another scientific milestone on Sunday, February 21, at exactly 1:36 in the morning, as the country’s second cube satellite (CubeSat) Maya-2 was launched to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard the S.S. Katherine Johnson Cynus spacecraft.

Photo from DOST

Sending the satellite into the ISS is the final step before the satellite reaches its targeted altitude in Low Earth Orbit, when the space station deploys it at a date to be determined later on.

The CubeSat, which falls under the nanosatellite category in terms of mass (1-10 kg), was launched to the ISS with two other identical CubeSats from Japan (Tsuru), and Paraguay (GuaraniSat-1) as part of the Northrop Grumman CRS-15 mission.

All three were developed under the Kyushu Institute of Technology (Kyutech)’s 4th Joint Global Multi-Nation Birds Satellite (BIRDS-4) Project.

Maya-2 was designed and developed by Filipino scholars who were sent to Kyutech through the Space Science and Technology Proliferation through University Partnerships (STeP-UP) Project of the Space Technology and Applications Mastery, Innovation and Advancement (STAMINA4Space) Program.

STAMINA4Space is funded by the Philippines’ Department of Science and Technology (DOST), monitored by DOST’s Philippine Council for Innovation, Energy, and Emerging Technology Research and Development (DOST PCIEERD), and implemented by DOST-Advanced Science and Technology Institute (DOST-ASTI), and UP Diliman.

“To do something for the first time is great, but to be able to do it again and innovate is greater. We take pride in the launch of Maya-2, the successor to Maya-1 and the Philippines’ latest milestone in creating value in space for and from Filipinos and for the world,” said Philippine Space Agency (PhilSA) director general Joel Joseph S. Marciano Jr.

Like its predecessor Maya-1 (decommissioned on November 23, 2020), Maya-2 is a technology demonstration and educational platform geared to collect data remotely by Store-and-Forward (S&F) Mechanism.

Aboard the 1.3 kg satellite is a camera for image and video capture, an Automatic Packet Reporting System Message Digipeater (APRS-DP), attitude determination and control units for active attitude stabilization and control demonstrations, Perovskite solar cells and Latchup-detection chip.

Apart from the similarity of the platforms, Maya-2 was developed and improved using the knowledge gained from developing its predecessor.

Photo from DOST

The development of Maya-2 under the BIRDS-4 Project started in 2018 and was affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The development of Maya-2, and BIRDS-4 satellites in general, was special due to the fact that it was affected by the pandemic… Not being able to gather physically also add to the challenges we faced during the final stages of the project as most of the work such as troubleshooting and finalizing software and satellite assembly were done with less people from the team,” said Mark Angelo Purio, a member of the engineering team.

Dr. Maricor Soriano, STAMINA4Space program leader and project leader of its Optical Payload Technology, In-depth Knowledge Acquisition, and Localization (OPTIKAL) component, said it was important to continue and sustain local CubeSat research even during a pandemic.

“More than the product, sustaining local cubesat research and development potentially leads to (1) a systems engineering mindset among our researchers , (2) local partners that can co-develop our space industry, and (3) enhanced Science Technology and Engineering curricula in K-12 and higher education,” said Soriano.

What’s next for the Philippines’ second CubeSat?

“As of now, the team is finalizing the mission operation for the first 24 hours, first week and first month. We are also preparing to coordinate with ground stations of the BIRDS network to ask for their help and cooperation in operating the satellites once deployed in orbit,” said BIRDS-4 project manager Izrael Bautista.

After deployment into orbit, the team will immediately start carrying out the satellite’s missions.

As early as now, the Philippines can anticipate more Maya launches in the future with Maya-3, Maya-4, Maya-5, and Maya-6 already in their respective design and development phases under the STeP-UP project led by Prof. Paul Jason Co.

“Maya-2 is the manifestation of our country’s commitment to build and sustain our own SSTA ecosystem,” he said. “This is but another step in our long journey as a space-faring nation.”

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