Named after a Philippine mythical creature, Diwata-1 is a low earth orbit microsatellite created to fly up to 400km above the surface of the earth that will also serve as a training ground for the development of space technology in the country, and the first Philippine-made microsatellite set to spread its wings on April this year.

Prior to Diwata-1, the Philippines had two communication satellites under their control. Namely, Agila-1 and Agila-2. However, these satellites were owned by private companies, and has no capability to take photographs. The satellite was also built and developed by foreign scientists and engineers.

The Diwata’s charms

Equipped with a high-precision telescope (HPT), the microsatellite can diagnose the gravity of damages from unforeseen attacks by the force of nature such as typhoons and volcanic eruptions. Its HPT also has the ability to monitor shifts in cultural and natural heritage sites like Mount Apo or Mayon Volcano.

The microsatellite is built with a wide field camera that is meant to aid scientists and weather forecasters in observing cloud patterns in order to increase the accuracy of predictions in the weather.

Installed with a spaceborne multispectral imager (SMI), the microsatellite is also able to observe changes in vegetation and oceans productivity.

The genius minds behind the Diwata-1

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As part of the Department of Science and Technology’s Philippine Scientific Earth Observation Micro-Satellite (PHL-Microsat) program, the creation of the microsatellite is a collaboration between the Philippine government and the Hokkaido University and Tohoku University of Japan.

The objective of the program is to kick-start the launching of the Philippines’ own microsatellites that would be geared to assist disaster management programs, agriculture, weather forecasting, fisheries, mining, forestry, cultural landmarks preservation, etc.

DOST-Advanced Science and Technology Institute and the University of the Philippines sent nine genius minds to partner with scientists and engineers from Japanese universities to begin the production of the Diwata.

Since October 2014, Filipino scientists have been staying in Japan through a scholarship program given by the Philippine government to pursue their masters degree that concentrates on the development of the satelites.

The Japanese universities, on the other hand, have profound knowledge and experience in programs as such. Tohoku University and Hokkaido University developed Rising-2, the Japanese microsatellite.

The Diwata’s spatial territory

Once the microsatellite is launched in the low-earth orbit (ranging from 400 to 420 kilometers from the ground), it is expected to move over the country four times a day in a speed of 7 kilometers per second. In a short time of six minutes when it passes the country, it is expected to capture up to 3,600 photographs per day.

The mortal in the myth

In every Philippine legend that involves a diwata, the story would not be complete without the diwata crossing paths with a mortal whom she either gives a blessing, or a curse. Diwata-1’s story is just like the legends of old. Once the microsatellite is up and running in space, a facility that shall go by the name Philippine Earth Data Resources Observation Center (PEDRO) is to be built up in Zambales, at the Subic Freeport to collect photographs and data gathered by Diwata-1, and distribute the information to be used for public services by government agencies.

Meanwhile in the University of the Philippines Diliman, a research laboratory will be given direct access to information Diwata sends to Pedro, and will bear the responsibility to develop and innovate the program.

The Diwata’s treasure chest

With another microsatellite on its way to be created in the next year (2017), the three-year project will mount to a total19 million dollars, or 840 million pesos. Almost 60% (Php 515.92 M, or 11.6 Million dollars) of the expenses will be covered by Tohoku University and Hokkaido University, the Japanese universities taking part in this project, and 40% (Php 324.8M, or 7.3 Million dollars) will be shouldered by the Philippine government.

The Department of Budget and Management planned the funding for the project until 2017.

The Diwata’s flight

On January 13. 2016, the Diwata was handed over to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) at the Tsukaba Space Center. The exploration agency is set to deploy the microsatellite to United States to be inspected by NASA after conducting the final tests.

Once the final examinations on Diwata-1 is finished, SpaceX will take over and launch the satellite to the International Space Station (ISS), and will once again be inspected for at least 18 months before being sent into orbit.

Written by Kyle Castillo for:
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