Maya-1, PH’s first cube satellite, completes mission

Maya-1, the country's first cube satellite, has completed its mission and flew back to the Earth’s atmosphere after two years.

Maya-1 Engineers Dr. Adrian Salces (left) and Engr. Joven Javier(right) with former STAMINA4Space Program Leader and Director-General of the Philippine Space Agency, Dr. Joel Joseph Marciano Jr. (middle). (Photo from STAMINA4Space Program)

“Initially, the satellite was expected to stay in orbit for less than a year only, but it had stayed in orbit for about two years and four months,” said Adrian Salces, one of the Filipino graduate students who developed Maya-1, as it returned last Nov. 23.

Maya-1, along with Bhutan-1 of Bhutan and UiTMSAT-1 of Malaysia, are produced under the auspices of the second generation of the Joint Global Multi-Nation BIRDS Satellite Project or the  BIRDS-2 Project of the Kyushu Institute of Technology (Kyutech) in Japan.

Maya-1, a 1U cube satellite (CubeSat) in Japan, was deployed through the Japanese Experimental Module Small Satellite Orbital Deployer (J-SSOD) in the “Kibo” module – the same module used to deploy Diwata-1.

The CubeSat is under the Development of Scientific Earth Observation Microsatellite (PHL-Microsat) program, a research program jointly implemented by the University of the Philippines-Diliman (UPD) and the Advanced Science and Technology Institute of the Department of Science and Technology (DoST-ASTI) in partnership with Kyutech in Japan.

Maya-1's Journey

Named after the Philippines’ former national bird, the Maya (Chestnut munia), the Maya-1 CubeSat may be small in size but is packed with scientific instruments that have been helpful for researchers across the country.

One of the missions of the 1-unit (1U) CubeSat is the Store-and-Forward (S&F) System, where it collects data from ground sensor terminals within its footprint, saves it, and forwards the data to any member ground station.

The 10-cubic centimeter CubeSat also has an Automatic Packet Radio Service Digipeater, which can communicate with ham radios.

At the same time, Maya-1 carries two cameras, a wide-angle and a narrow-angle lens, which enabled the researchers to take various images of the Earth.

Maya-1 also contains a low-cost Global Positioning System (GPS) commercial off-the-shelf chip, and a magnetometer – a device used to measure the magnetic field in space. It can also log data corruption incidents due to space radiation through the Single Event Latch-Up mission.

The future

DoST said one of the things that Maya-1 has proven is the Filipino’s capacity to build own CubeSats.

"Aside from the technical aspects of developing CubeSats, we have learned the importance of a multi-disciplinary approach to solving problems. Most importantly, we have learned that we CAN build our own CubeSats,” said Space Science and Technology Proliferation through University Partnerships (STeP-UP) Project Leader Paul Jason Co. STeP-UP is a graduate program with a nanosatellite engineering track housed within the University of the Philippines-Diliman Electrical and Electronics Engineering Institute (UPD EEEI).

Salces said that their principal investigator and professor at Kyutech would remind them that the true success of the BIRDS project will not be determined by launching a perfectly working satellite in space, but the ability to apply what has been learned and replicate the entire process of satellite development in their respective countries.

“Knowledge gained would be wasted if it is not utilized and made to grow. To keep the momentum and sustain growth in this field in our country, the knowledge gained must be freely shared to everyone interested in building their own programs to bootstrap capability building throughout the country,” said Co.

Filipino researchers have been continuously developing CubeSats. Maya-1’s successor Maya-2 has been completed and turned over to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) last Sept.  24.

A group of scholars under the STeP-UP Project is developing two new CubeSats, Maya-3 and Maya-4. The second batch of scholars, on the other hand, recently began their studies and the development of Maya-5 and Maya-6.

“We look forward to the day where high school students will be building the successors of Maya-1, where they will be developing and crafting their own missions and experiments in space through nanosatellites where they would feel that space belongs to them,” said Philippine Space Agency Director-General Joel Joseph Marciano Jr.