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Philippines to launch own microsatellite in 2016

The Philippines is blasting off into the space age with the planned launching of its own microsatellite in July ,2016, with the cooperation of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) said the space venture is part of the government’s disaster risk management program.

The space program has two components: the Development of the Philippines’ Earth Observation Microsatellite (DIWATA), with a budget allocation of P800 million; and the Philippine Earth Data Resources and Observation Center (PEDRO), with a budget of P600 million, DOST Secretary Mario Montejo said.

DOST’s Philippine Council for Industry, Energy, and Emerging Technology Research and Development (PCIEERD) said DIWATA is expected to gather “on-demand and real-time status of the country’s environment, particularly for applications such as disaster risk management, land-use, and aquatic resource assessment and monitoring.”

On the other hand, PEDRO will serve as an earth-receiving station that will “securely receive, process, and exploit and distribute space-borne imagery and derive information from the supported remote sensing satellites.”

The government-owned microsatellite can be used to improve weather detection and forecasts, agricultural growth patterns, and monitor forest cover and the country’s territorial borders, Montejo said.

“We can develop a lot more uses for the microsatellite if we keep on improving its capability to expand its applications,” he added, citing that the Philippines presently relies on third-party service providers and commercial vendors for satellite data and interpretation.

He also said that with a microsatellite and receiving station, the country will be able to gather its own satellite images and other data and not rely anymore on foreign sources.

PCIEERD Executive Director Dr. Rowena Cristina L. Guevarra said DIWATA will be developed in partnership with the Tohoku University and Hokkaido University of Japan.

She said PCIEERD will monitor the implementation of the space program to be implemented by the University of the Philippines.

“We are going to launch the microsatellite development program this coming July. Then, we will be sending seven engineers to Japan for the training with the two universities,” Guevarra said.

From its development to its launch, making microsatellite involves many stages — from making sensors, payload mass, the microsatellite itself, including testing, and finally the launching, Guevarra pointed out. She expressed hope that the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency will allow the DOST to launch the microsatellite in 2016.