NASA set to launch 1st PHL microsatellite to the ISS

By , on March 22, 2016


Turnover of Diwata-1 at the Tsukuba Space Center. (Photo from PAGASA)
Turnover of Diwata-1 at the Tsukuba Space Center. (Photo from PAGASA)

MANILA – Diwata-1, the Philippines’ first microsatellite, will be brought to the International Space Station (ISS) at 11 p.m. of March 22, Eastern Standard Time (11 a.m., March 23, Philippine Standard Time).

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) commercial provider Orbital ATK is set to launch its fifth mission to the ISS on March 22 (EST), and the company’s Cygnus spacecraft is scheduled to lift off on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket at 11:05 p.m. (EST) from Space Launch Complex 41 in Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, USA.

The Philippine Department of Science and Technology (DOST) said March 22 (EST) is a target launch date and is subject to change due to a variety of factors.

“NASA will make every attempt to notify the Philippines of changes at the soonest possible time,” the agency said.

At the ISS, meanwhile, Diwata-1 will be housed in the Japanese Experiment Module (JEM), nicknamed “Kibo.” Towards the end of April, the JEM Small Satellite Orbital Deployer (J-SSOD) will release Diwata-1 into space at an altitude of 400 kilometers from the earth’s surface.

The Philippines’ first microsatellite is expected to be in orbit for approximately 18-20 months and will be imaging the country twice daily.

While still in orbit, the same Filipino research team who assembled Diwata-1 targets to launch the second microsatellite (DIWATA-2) in late 2017 or early 2018.

Diwata-1 has four cameras that would continuously take pictures of the Philippines. These images will be used for research and in remote sensing.

Remote sensing “is a necessary technology for monitoring weather, disasters, as well as environmental issues” as described by Kohei Cho, Asian Association on Remote Sensing (AARS) general secretary.

In a previous interview with the Philippines News Agency, Cho noted that every country and every continent worldwide needs remote sensing, since environment, for instance, has no boundaries. He added that a country needs remote sensing to have good cooperation with the international framework.

“It has been proven to be capable of monitoring El Nino, too,” said Enrico Paringit during the 36th Asian Conference on Remote Sensing (ACRS) held in the country last year.

Paringit, 36th ACRS local chair, cited that the technologies in remote sensing include satellite with high resolution camera and sensors mapping flooding areas.

“The pictures that will be taken by Diwata-1 can also be used for tourism, as we could pick an image of the day and share it with you,” said Carlos Primo David, executive director of the DOST-Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research Division (PCIEERD).

Included in the Philippine government’s budget is providing a good microsatellite data storage facility in Subic.

A ground receiving station in Subic is tasked to receive Diwata-1 imagery as well as from selected commercial satellites.

According to PCIEERD, another facility is currently being constructed – the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman Microsatellite Research and Instructional facility which will be the hub of training for future space technology research and development activities.

About Diwata-1

In 2014, the DOST embarked on a research program to develop the necessary local expertise in space technology and allied emerging fields in science and engineering.

The flagship project of this effort is called the PhilMicrosat Program which is implemented by several departments in UP Diliman and DOST’s Advanced Science and Technology Institute (ASTI).

DOST has also partnered with two universities in Japan to develop Diwata-1.

Diwata-1 was assembled by nine young Filipino engineers who were stationed in Japan to undergo an extensive course about microsatellite. The team had almost a year to finish the assembly and testing of Diwata-1.

It weighs 50 kg and is about the size of a “balikbayan box.”

The country’s microsatellite passed the component tests, first vibration tests, post-vibration electrical tests, off-gas test and fit checking according to PCIEERD. There was a continuous functionality tests of modules and sensors and software optimization.

Last Jan. 13, DOST representatives turned over Diwata-1 to Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

The agency had requested JAXA to release Diwata-1 at a time when the ISS is at the highest altitude (between March 21 and April 30).