Diwata launch: 1 year later

(MAY 5)—The Philippine Microsat Program (PHL-Microsat) celebrated the first anniversary of Diwata-1’s launch into space last Apr. 27 with a showcase of space technologies. This includes a live demonstration of the Philippine Earth Data Resource Observation (PEDRO) facility housed at the DOST-Advanced Science and Technology Institute (ASTI).

Called Pinoy Showcase of Space Technologies (PSST), the event was “in keeping with the theme of highlighting technology innovation,” said PHL-Microsat leader and Electrical and Electronics Engineering Institute (EEEI) professor Joel Joseph Marciano.

Since its launch Diwata has orbited the Earth over 5,000 times, taking images and data which is collected daily by the PEDRO facility.

According to ASTI Mission Operations Head Harold Bryan S. Paler, even though Diwata actually passes through the Philippines up to five times every 24 hours, the team typically captures images only once while the rest of the day is devoted to downloading the images captured.

In special circumstances such as during the typhoon season, the team adds capture schedules to monitor topographical changes of the affected areas like how they monitored the changes in the Cagayan River during typhoon Lawin in 2016.

PEDRO can also capture images from two South Korean satellites, Kompsat 3 and 5. The facility has gathered some P300M worth of Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) images in the past year.

Data for agriculture. According to Dr. Gay Jane Perez, a professor at the Institute of Environmental Science and Meteorology who heads Project 5:  Remote Sensing Product Development for Philippine Microsatellite, the team identified several areas the team will focus their research on.

The project is tasked with transforming the images from Diwata into data that can be used by organizations such as LGUs.

One of these areas is Pulilio Island in Quezon, which has extensive agriculture activity, primarily coconut plantations and fishing.

“We want to help our fishermen find locations kung saan pwedeng mangisda kasi naturally matagal ang search nila [for fish] so they have to spend a lot of fuel just to find where to fish. Using satellite technology, we monitor environmental parameters that can help in predicting or giving them advisory to find fishing grounds,” she said.

According to College of Engineering professor Mark Edwin Tupas, the images can be accessed through the PHL-Microsat website following registration on the site.

Tupas is Project Leader for Development of a Data Processing, Archiving and Distribution Sub-system for the Ground Receiving Station of PHL-Microsat.

Marciano said as long as they have continuous support from the government, access to the images will remain free of charge.

However, Tupas stressed that while downloading and using the images for research is free, selling them or profiting from them is not.

“Ang current lang po na limitation is that you cannot sell the dataset. You can use it for research,” he said.

Teaching satellite technology. The EEEI also extended the research being done in PHL-Microsat into its curriculum, establishing a microsatellite research instructional facility and has begun offering an elective course on satellite technology for junior and senior undergraduate students of the institute.

“[T][inuturuan sila kung paano mag-mission planning, mag-operate ng ground station at gumawa ng model ng satellite. Magkakaroon [din] kami ng flight test nung model satellite in a few weeks from now,” he said.

He added that in the future the elective will be expanded into an advanced graduate course with a multidisciplinary thrust.

Diwata-2 and Davao. The team also revealed updates on the design and testing of Diwata-2, the second microsatellite which they hope to launch in the second quarter of 2018.

Weighing 50 kilograms and carrying more instruments, Diwata-2 will be launched higher at 613 kilometers above the earth’s surface. It will carry better cameras and a ham radio.

A ham radio can detect radio frequencies that are most often used and useful during disaster situations.

More importantly, Diwata-2 will be sun-synchronous, meaning it will pass over the Philippines at approximately the same time every day.

“[W]ith Diwata 2 being sun-synchronous, we can get passes in a more periodic way, so for example if we have an area that is experiencing drought, we can monitor the development of drought in this specific area,” Perez said.

The team also revealed that plans to build a second, unmanned receiving facility in Davao, which will have a larger antenna. They expect construction to begin in November or December 2017 with the facility being operational by January 2018.