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First University-Built Cube Satellites in the Philippines

Image credits: stii.dost.gov.ph

The Maya-3 and Maya-4 were the first Filipino cube satellites (CubeSats) constructed in a local university setting It was planned and established by the pioneer batch of scholars beneath the Space Science and Technology Proliferation through University Partnerships tag as the STeP-UP project of the STAMINA4Space Programme.

“Maya-3 and Maya-4 were pivotal in the development of the local space industry. These CubeSats are experimental and educational platforms, and while all low earth orbiting satellites will eventually fall to earth, what matters more are the lasting intangibles that the project brought – knowledge, skill, partnerships, and confidence that we can do it,” says Dr Maricor Soriano, programme leader of STAMINA4Space Programme.

The bus systems of Maya-3 and Maya-4 are based on those of Maya-1, but the antenna board has been improved. One of the jobs of both satellites is to carry a commercial off-the-shelf APRS-Digipeater Payload Demonstration (APRS-DP mission), which uses packet radio technology to send information over amateur radio. The only thing that made the missions of the two CubeSats different was that Maya-4 had a near-infrared camera attached to it.

Both CubeSats could send APRS beacons to ten different countries at different times. Different amateur radio operators from 8 different countries were also able to use the satellites to send and receive signals. Thus, Maya-3 and Maya-4 satellites showed that the country can make satellites on its own.

On the other hand, Engineer Paul Jason Co, who oversees the STeP-UP project, said that the Maya-3 and Maya-4 engineers are likely to work in the country’s space industry. He also talked about the future of the space industry since the Maya-5 and Maya-6 are coming up and will be continued by the Philippine Space Agency (PhilSA) through the Advancing Core Competencies and Expertise in Space Studies Nanosat Project, also called as ACCESS Project.

Maya-3 and Maya-4 were built as part of the STeP-UP project of the STAMINA4Space Programme. This project is funded by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and is run by the University of the Philippines Diliman (UPD) and the DOST Advanced Science and Technology Institute (DOST-ASTI).

Moreover, the nanosatellite development track of the Master of Science (MS) or Master of Engineering (MEng) programme of the Electrical and Electronics Engineering Institute of the University of the Philippines Diliman (UPD-EEEI) is also run in partnership with an institute in Japan and with scholarship support from the Department of Science and Technology’s Science Education Institute (DOST-SEI).

One of the goals of the STAMINA4Space Programme is to grow the local space industry. This can be done by building cube satellites in the area. Maya-3 and Maya-4 were created because of what the Philippines learned and how they did things while working on a project with a technology institute in Japan.

The second group of students working on the STeP-UP Project are building two more CubeSats called Maya-5 and Maya-6. They are based on Maya-2 and are set to launch in 2023.

The Space Technology Applications Mastery, Innovation, and Advancement (STAMINA4Space) Programme is funded by the Department of Science and Technology, monitored by DOST’s Philippine Council for Industry, Energy, and Emerging Technology Research and Development, and implemented by DOST’s Advanced Science and Technology Institute and the University of the Philippines Diliman (UPD).

In addition, it seeks to cultivate knowledge that supports and sustains the creation of a Philippine scientific-industrial basis in space technology and applications.

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