First Philippine microsatellite “DIWATA” set to launch

[Update, March 22, 2016] It was announced today that the launch of DIWATA, the first all-Filipino assembled microsatellite, will be on March 23, 2016 (11:00 a.m., Philippine Standard Time), ahead of schedule. An earlier announcement slated the launch for April 2016. The article below has been modified to reflect this new information. NASA TV coverage will start at 10:00 a.m., PST.

The potential uses of DIWATA include: improved weather detection and forecasts, disaster risk management, detecting agricultural growth patterns, and the monitoring of forest cover, mining, protection of cultural and historical sites, and the territorial borders of the Philippines.

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Diwata, the first microsatellite built by an all-Filipino team.

DIWATA was turned over to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) to prepare for its launch into space this month. With DIWATA, comes the Filipino dream to have its own Philippine Space Agency.

Officials of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), UP Diliman, Tohoku University (TU), and Hokkaido University (HU) handed-over the project following the completion of the assembly and testing of the 50-kg Philippine Earth Observation Microsatellite. It is set to be released into space, for delivery to the International Space Station (ISS) on March 23, 2016.

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The Philippine microsatellite program

Recognizing the advantages of using satellite-based remote sensing, the government invested in the construction and launching of the Philippine scientific earth observation microsatellite, under the PHL-MICROSAT or DIWATA program, with the budget of P800 million for three years.

DIWATA is the country’s first microsatellite designed, developed, and assembled by Filipino researchers and engineers under the guidance of Japanese experts from Hokkaido University and Tohoku University. The satellite is designed to provide real-time images for disaster risk management and other applications.

Seven engineering students from the University of the Philippines and two science researchers from DOST’s Advanced Science and Technology Institute (DOST-ASTI) were sent to Tohoku University and Hokkaido University in Japan to work on the microsatellite bus system and payload design while pursuing advanced degrees, as part of the PHL-MICROSAT program.

The bus development team worked on the design, the implementation, and the testing of various structural, mechanical, and electrical aspects of the microsatellite bus.

The payload and mission design team on the other hand contributed to the science mission analysis and objectives that lead to the specifications of the payload sensors and instruments. The team studied the technical specifications of the payload instruments towards proper testing and calibration of its outputs.

As a result of their efforts, we now have the microsatellite known as "Diwata."
As a result of their efforts, we now have the microsatellite known as “Diwata.”

Part of the three-year program is the development of a second microsatellite (DIWATA 2) to be launched in 2017.

The PHL-MICROSAT team also intends to develop course and training materials on small satellite technology design and testing, which are proposed to be incorporated into science and engineering undergraduate and postgraduate elective courses, as well as local industry short seminars. A microsatellite simulator and testbed, antenna design and testing facility and amateur radio satellite station are also currently being set up as part of the establishment of the local microsatellite research and instructional facility within UP Diliman.

The rest of the PHL-MICROSAT team at UP Diliman are focused on developing a ground receiving station (GRS) that will allow space borne images to be transmitted to earth. It will also be used to transmit commands from the ground to the microsatellite to carry out is mission effectively.

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DIWATA-1 is a low earth orbit (LEO) satellite set to fly 400km above the earth. It serves as a training platform and will pave the way for the Filipino team to further develop their skills in space technology.

More than this, the potential uses of Diwata’s images include improved weather detection and forecasts, disaster risk management, detecting agricultural growth patterns, and the monitoring of forest cover, mining, protection of cultural and historical sites, and the territorial borders of the Philippines. Diwata will be sending vital images and data back to Philippine Earth Data Resources and Observation (PEDRO) Center which was set up to receive data from the satellite

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Details of Diwata

DIWATA 1 is equipped with a high precision telescope (HPT) that can determine the extent of damages from disasters, like typhoons and volcanic eruptions. It can also monitor changes in cultural and natural heritage sites, like the Mount Apo or Mayon Volcano.

Its spaceborne multispectral imager (SMI) with LCTF will be able to monitor changes in vegetation and monitor oceans productivity.

It also carries a wide field camera that will help scientists and weather forecasters better observe cloud patterns and more accurately predict weather disturbances.

Its middle field camera assists in determining the locations of images captured using the HPT and SMI.

—From the Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development