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The Philippines to Boost Satellite-Based Projects

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The Philippines’ Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and the National Security Council (NSC) signed a memorandum of agreement to collaborate in the implementation of a satellite-based project to monitor the country’s land and maritime domains.

The government agencies will be implementing an initiative called Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) and Automatic Identification System (AIS) for the Innovative Terrestrial Monitoring and Maritime Surveillance. The SAR with AIS Project has acquired the data-tasking services of the NovaSAR-1 satellite, allowing the country roughly three minutes of imaging (or a scope of 81,600 sq. km.) using the scanning SAR (ScanSAR) mode per day.

The SAR with AIS project is being implemented by the DOST in response to coordinated inputs from various local stakeholders, including Philippine national government agencies such as the National Coast Watch System (NCWS), National Security Council (NSC), Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), Department of Agriculture’s (DA) Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), and the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA).

The memorandum of agreement allows the Philippine government, through DOST-ASTI, to access the NovaSAR-1 satellite for the whole lifespan of the spacecraft. The deal is aimed at getting relevant data on land and aquatic resources in support of the country’s requirements for enhanced monitoring of maritime and agricultural environments, infrastructure identification, and other beneficial applications.

The NovaSAR-1 satellite, which was designed and built by a British firm, is equipped with an AIS receiver, allowing for simultaneous ship detection in all-weather conditions with day and night imaging capabilities.

The datasets from the NovaSAR-1 satellite are received through the Philippine Earth Data Resource and Observation (PEDRO) Centre, while the secure storage and archiving of the data is coursed through the Computing and Archiving Research Environment (COARE). The data processing and analysis are spearheaded by the researchers from the PEDRO Centre and the Remote Sensing and Data Science (DATOS) Help Desk with the utilisation of High-Performance Computing resources of the DOST-ASTI.

The ground segment engineers recently conducted maintenance and upgrade procedures on the Davao Ground Receiving Station (DGRS) to receive data directly from the NovaSAR-1 satellite. Direct reception of satellite data translates to faster availability of useful information making us more responsive to critical events such as disaster response. Received data is immediately transferred to the mission operations centre for processing, analysis, archiving, and distribution.

The DOST said SAR data can be used to monitor and detect a variety of objects. It is minimally affected by weather conditions, making it an efficient option for monitoring, it added. The science agency said SAR with AIS data allows for the identification of the detected ships and the locations they have visited — information that is useful in guarding the country’s territorial waters against illegal vessels. Also, AIS data can be used to plot the trajectories of missing ships and assist in rescue operations.

The SAR with AIS project plays a big role in research and development with its complex capabilities and expertise on terrestrial monitoring and maritime surveillance for national security and the agency believes that this is something that the NSC has always valued, said the DOST-ASTI director.

National Security Council director-general also cited the efforts of the DOST and the Philippine Space Agency to advance space technology in the country. With this project, they have accelerated their interest in outer space, and they intend to do it through the NovaSAR satellite. The agency can now capture the images for maritime monitoring purposes including other interests in national security, they added.


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