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Philippines' microsatellite programme takes off

Posted: 15 Mar 2016 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:microsatellite? DIWATA-1? space applications?

In a cross-border collaboration with universities in Japan, engineers from the Philippines' Department of Science and Technology have successfully built the country's first microsatellite. The 50kg DIWATA-1 microsatellite, named after the Filipino word for fairy, was handed over to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency in January and is scheduled to launch in April 2016.

It will be released from the Japanese Experiment Module, Kibo, Japan's contribution to the International Space Station. As part of a three-year satellite development project, engineers from the University of the Philippines Diliman and the Philippines' Department of Science and Technology Laboratory have been accepted as graduate students and researchers at the Tohoku and Hokkaido universities.

The young scientists assembled two microsatellites, DIWATA-1 and its successor, while simultaneously being taught how to design and use them.


Figure 1: DIWATA is the country's first microsatellite designed, developed, and assembled by Filipino researchers and engineers under the guidance of Japanese experts. (Source:

The programme aims to pave the way for the next generation of low-cost, high-performance space applications. 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) Centre, which was set up to receive data from the satellite.

microsatellite team

Figure 2: Members of the Japanese and Filipino microsatellite team with the DIWATA-1 at JAXA's Tsukuba Space Centre.

American IT firms are among the many organisations planning to launch up to several thousands of microsatellites into space within the next few years. High resolution remote sensing is also a major goal. The DIWATA-1 microsatellite is the first of its kind to be manufactured in Japan for overseas use, but there will be more to come. For the past three years, Tohoku University and Hokkaido University have been proposing the idea of launching 50 satellites with the cooperation of other Asian countries and operating them through partnerships. DIWATA-1 is being regarded as the first big step.

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 multi-spectral 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.

- Toni Urrutia

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