As of April 2018, about 800 cube satellites or CubeSat has been occupying outer space. None of these have been made by Filipinos.
With the help of a SpaceX Falcon-9 CRS15 rocket that was stationed at Cape Canaveral, Florida, Maya-1 soared into space on June 29, 2018. This CubeSat which weighs about one kilogram and measures ten cubic meters was created by two Filipino graduate students Joven Javier and Adrian Salces who are both in Japan taking their Masters and Doctoral degrees, respectively.
Both Javer and Salces are part of the Philippine Scientific Earth Observation Microsatellite (PHL-Microsat) which is a joint research program by the University of the Philippines-Diliman and the Department of Science and Technology-Advanced Science and Technology Institute.
The first CubeSat made by Filipinos was launched as part of the Second Joint Global Multi-Nation Birds Project or BIRDS-2 Project of Japan’s Kyushu Institute of Technology. Joining it in the same SpaceX rocket are other CubeSats such as Bhutan’s BHUTAN-1 and Malaysia’s UiTM-SAT1. The spacecraft carried 2,700 kilograms of scientific equipment and supplies as it reached the International Space Station on July 2 for a re-supply mission. From there, it will be in full orbit by August 2018 and will be operational for six months.
Though it is small enough to be carried by hand, this satellite comes up big with its capabilities. Maya-1 is equipped with two cameras for research and an automatic packet radio service digipeater which makes it possible to communicate with ham or amateur radio. Its body houses Global Positioning System and a device that can measure the magnetic field in outer space. It can also record instances of data corruption caused by radiation.
Maya-1 was made from commercial components and chips. If it will function well, it will be a good training model for Filipino engineers to create low-cost but effective cube satellites. The success of which will also give the Philippines the opportunity to launch more satellites which are vital in keeping communication lines open when cellular networks are down due to massive natural calamities.
This is not the Philippines’ first foray into satellites though. A privately-owned satellite from Indonesia was launched in space in 1991, bought by Filipinos in 1996, and was renamed as Agila-1. In 1997, Agila-2 was launched from Sichuan, China but it was sold by Mabuhay Satellite Communications to Asia Broadcast Satellite Holdings Ltd in 2009. With a price tag of Php 400 million, the satellite is now known as ABS-3.
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Diwata-1, the first Filipino-made micro-satellite, was launched in March 2016 and went into orbit during the first week of April. Its four cameras captured about 3,600 high-resolution images of the Philippines daily until December 2017. Its replacement, Diwata-2, is expected to be launched into space later this year.