MANILA - The first microsatellite developed and assembled by Filipino researchers has reached the International Space Station (ISS), the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) confirmed Sunday.
Speaking to radio dzMM, DOST executive director Dr. Carlos Primo David said the low earth orbit (LEO) satellite Diwata-1 successfully reached the ISS on Saturday night.
The 50-kilogram Diwata-1, named after the Filipino mythological fairy, was launched into space from Florida, U.S. Wednesday. It was carried by a spacecraft with a 3,000 kilogram cargo.
David said astronauts at the ISS have started unloading the equipment and cargo from the spacecraft carrying Diwata-1.
The Pinoy microsatellite is expected to be unloaded at the ISS by the first week of April. It will be released into outer space from the station on April 20.
The micro-satellite is expected to capture images of the country from space starting the first week of May.
A view from PH from space
Diwata-1 is expected to pass over the Philippines four times a day, capturing 900 images per pass or up to 3,600 images daily. It will then transfer these images to the ground station in Subic.
David said satellite images from the Diwata-1 will bring great improvements to these fields:
- weather detection and forecasts
- disaster risk management
- detection of agricultural growth patterns
- monitoring of natural resources and historical sites
- observation of Philippine territorial borders
- capturing photos of local tourist spots
The DOST director said the Diwata-1, flying 400 kilometers above the earth, will yield sophisticated images with the help of its four cameras.
"Iyung photographs na ito hindi parang nagpadala tayo ng digital camera in outer space... Iyung isa camera rito tawag ay multi-spectral camera, ibig saibihin tumitingin siya gamit ang visible light, pwede rin siyang infrared," he added.
"Iyung infrared, ginagamit iyang pang-detect ng tubig, heat content ng mga bagay, so and so forth. Marami tayong information na makukuha."
David said these images will prevent Filipino scientists and officials from being "left in the dark" by whatever event that may affect the country.
As an example, he pointed out that without a satellite camera, the national government had difficulty in determining the areas which were the most badly hit by super typhoon Yolanda in 2013.
"It took us more than two weeks para malaman ito pala ang mga bayan na naapektuhan. In fact, kailangan nating bumili ng mga commercial satellite image para lang malaman natin iyung mga nasalantang area," he explained.
But more than its technological potential, David added that Diwata-1 is a point of pride for Filipinos.
"It's the first time that we can actually tell everyone that there is a piece of equipment in outer space with our flag on it. Wala pang nangyaring ganito in history na may sarili tayong equipment sa taas," he said.
Brains behind the fairy
Diwata-1 is the brainchild of seven engineering students from the University of the Philippines (UP) and two science researchers from DOST’s Advanced Science and Technology Institute (ASTI).
They were sent to Tohoku University and Hokkaido University in Japan to work on the microsatellite bus system and payload design while pursuing advanced degrees.
Among the "Magnificent 9," who are aged between 22 and 26, are Juan Paolo Espiritu, Benjamin Jonah Magallon, Gerwin Guba, John Leur Labrador, Julian Oliveros, Kaye Kristine Vergel, Ariston Gonzales, Delburg Mitchao, and Harold Paler.
David hopes that the team behind the country's flagship space project would be given due recognition when they return from Japan.
"Dapat talagang bigyan ng hero's welcome dahil day in and day out, nagtatrabaho itong siyam na engineers natin," he said.
For one year, the development team worked on the design, the implementation, and the testing of various structural, mechanical, and electrical aspects of the microsatellite bus.
"Iyung one year na 'yun, medyo mabilis. Kung makikita ninyo iyung Diwata-1, very complicated equipment ito. Kasinglaki lang siya ng balikbayan box pero iyung laman niya, sobrang high-tech na mga computer, instrumentation, camera, solar panels," David commented on the team's working timetable.
"Ang dami niyang components na isa lang ang magkamali roon ay maaaring hindi gumana ang ating satellite sa kalawakan."
The Filipino engineers are now working on the development of a second microsatellite (Diwata-2) that will be launched in 2017, David added.
The government allotted a budget of P800 million for three-year Diwata program.