Today is a historic day for the country’s scientific community as the Philippines’s first microsatellite Diwata-1 took off at 11:06 a.m. (Manila time) from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, U.S.A.
It’s heading to the International Space Station (ISS) where it will be housed in the Japanese Experiment Module (JEM) nicknamed Kibo. The JEM Small Satellite Orbital Deployer will release the microsatellite into space by the end of April at an altitude of 400 kilometers from the earth’s surface.
The 50-kilogram Diwata-1 will be in orbit for around 18 to 20 months and will be used to monitor weather and help with disaster risk management. It comes with four cameras that will take photos of the Philippines twice daily.
Some of the things Diwata can help the country with include agricultural productivity as well as food security. It can send critical information on weather systems, which our farmers need to adjust their planting methods. It can also help the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration make more accurate forecasts and weather monitoring. It can also help in the monitoring of forest cover, mining, protection of cultural and historical sites as well as our country’s borders.
Diwata, which is the Filipino term for fairy, is a flagship project of the Department of Science and Technology. It was designed and built by a Japan-based all-Filipino team of scientists and engineers namely Juan Paolo Espiritu, Benjamin Magallon, Gerwin Guba, John Leur Labrador, Julian Marvick Oliveros, Kaye Kristine Vergel, Ariston Gonzales, Delburg Mitchao, and Harold Paler. They worked under the guidance of Japanese experts from Hokkaido University and Tohoku University.
This occasion marks the third time the Philippines has sent hardware into space. The first one was Agila 1 in 1996 and Agila 2 in 1997. Unlike Diwata, though, the first two were privately-owned communication satellites that were bought abroad.
It’s part of a three-year program funded by the government with a budget of P800 million. Another aspect of that program is the development of a second microsatellite (DIWATA 2) to be launched in 2017.