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Philippine Cube Satellites Officially Launched from International Space Station

The country’s first university-built cube satellites (CubeSats), Maya-3 and Maya-4, were launched into space from the International Space Station (ISS) via Japan’s Japanese Experiment (JEM) or “Kibo” Laboratory Module. The launch of the locally built cube satellites (CubeSats) to the International Space Station (ISS) – the Maya-3 and Maya-4 – is said to have been postponed due to inclement weather before the recent deployment attempt.

The JEM Small Satellite Orbital Deployer (J-SSOD), along with satellite install cases containing CubeSats, was installed on the Multi-Purpose Experiment Platform (MPEP) by ISS crew members and passed through the Kibo airlock for retrieval, positioning, and implementation by the Japanese Experiment Module Remote Manipulator System (JEMRMS). The released CubeSats will move in an orbit similar to that of the space station, which is 400 kilometres in altitude.

This is a very historic and important day because the world has witnessed the deployment of the Maya-3 and Maya-4 cube satellites from the International Space Station to outer space. These two CubeSats are the first Philippine university-built cube satellites developed by Filipino scholars.

– DOST secretary


The most recent development follows the CubeSat’s August launch to the space station aboard the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket’s Dragon C208 as part of SpaceX Commercial Resupply Mission-23 (SpX-23). They were released alongside two other Australian CubeSats, Biner-1 and CUAVA-1, developed by Curtin University and the University of Sydney, respectively.

The two CubeSats were established as a part of the STAMINA4Space Project’s Space Science and Technology Proliferation through University Partnerships (STeP-UP), which is funded by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and implemented by the University of the Philippines Diliman (UPD) and the DOST Advanced Science and Technology Institute (DOST-ASTI).

Maya-3 and Maya-4 were built by the first of two batches of STeP-UP scholars enrolled in the nanosatellite development track of the UPD Electrical and Electronics Engineering Institute’s Master of Science (MS)/Master of Engineering (MEng) programme (EEEI). The CubeSats are being developed in partnership with the Kyushu Institute of Technology (Kyutech) in Japan, with scholarship funding provided by the DOST-Science Education Institute (DOST-SEI).

OpenGov Asia in an article reported that the CubeSats is said to be twice as heavy and larger than the Diwata-2 microsatellite, with more payloads and spectral bands, allowing it to support more image applications and satellite products. “MULA is very significant to the DOST. Aside from being the biggest Philippine satellite developed, this is the first satellite that the DOST is doing in coordination with PhilSA,” the DOST chief said.

The DOST Secretary is convinced in PhilSA’s ability to oversee the completion and expected launch of MULA, as well as manage and operate the satellite afterward. “It gives me the pride to see first-hand how the DOST’s early space R&D (research and development) activities have helped capable young Filipino scientists and engineers,” the official said, adding that the MULA team’s dedication inspires him.

Using the satellite, Filipino researchers could use MULA to mitigate challenges such as water quality and marine resource sustainability, among others. The MULA satellite in low earth orbit can circle the globe ten times per day, expanding opportunities for market data or leveraging collaboration with other nations.

The Chancellor of the University of the Philippines Diliman (UPD) commented on the impact of this latest development on the youth. During the launch of the microsatellites Diwata-1 and Diwata-2, he noted that this project of building their satellites has the potential to inspire students and young children to pursue careers in space science and engineering. This will help many young and aspiring scientists overcome psychological barriers. The STeP-UP Batch 1 scholars explained that now that the satellites are in orbit, they can begin testing the various functions of the CubeSats.


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