Maya-2 has finally taken flight!
The cube satellite made by Filipino engineers studying in Japan was finally released into space from the ISS on March 14, 2020 at around 7:20pm PHT. This latest development follows the CubeSat’s launch to the space station aboard a Cygnus NG-15 rocket (S.S. Katherine Johnson) on February 21, 2021, together with other CubeSats Tsuru (Japan) and GuaraniSat-1 (Paraguay). The primary purpose of these satellites–designed and developed under the 4th Joint Global Multi-Nation Birds Satellite (BIRDS-4) Project of the Kyushu Institute of Technology (Kyutech) in Japan–is technology demonstration, the learnings of which will be used for educational purposes.
Filipino engineers Mark Angelo Cabrera Purio, Izrael Zenar Bautista, and Marloun Sejera were sent to Kyutech by the Department of Science and Technology’s Science Education Institute to pursue doctoral degrees as part of a scholarship program done in cooperation with the Space Science and Technology Proliferation through University Partnerships (STeP-UP) Project of the STAMINA4Space Program. Like its predecessor Maya-1 (decommissioned on November 23, 2020), Maya-2 can remotely collect data using a Store-and-Forward mechanism and capture images and videos using an on-board camera. Its 1.3 kg frame is also equipped with other functions such as an Automatic Packet Reporting System Message Digipeater, attitude determination and control units for active attitude stabilization and control demonstrations, Perovskite solar cells, and a Latchup-detection chip.
“Right now we hope to execute all our missions with the help of other BIRDS ground stations around the world so that we could utilize the satellites to their full extent,” said Maya-2 engineer Bautista, also the BIRDS-4 Project Manager. Meanwhile engineer Sejera adds that the team is now preparing for the satellite operation, which includes satellite health monitoring and mission execution.
The livestream of the deployment can be viewed here:
“As the principal investigator of the BIRDS program, I am very happy to see Maya-2 deployed from the ISS,” said BIRDS Project Principal Investigator Dr. Mengu Cho, who highlighted the BIRDS Project’s goal to foster human resources to initiate indigenous space programs in non-space faring countries. “After seeing the infant space programs in many countries, I can say that the Philippines is one of the best examples of a success story… for Maya-2, three students from the Philippines are engaged and play key roles in the entire BIRDS-4 project. I am sure that they can be an important asset to the future Philippine space program. So far, I have supervised five Philippine students under the BIRDS program and have been always satisfied with their talents and sincerity to study.”
“Of all the BIRDS partners, none is more serious about developing in-country ‘human resources’ than the Philippines. Before you can make a spacecraft, you have to train engineers who know how to make them. The point is understood in your country,” said Prof. Maeda. He adds, “And one more thing that is immensely impressive, you have propagated more capacity building through BIRDS-2S and BIRDS-4S [locally developed cubesats under the nanosatellite engineering track in EEEI UPD]. This means the ‘BIRDS concept’ is replicated inside of the Philippines. The fruit of knowledge acquired at Kyutech is taken to the Philippines and then applied to help others—this ‘multiplication of knowledge’ is precisely what we want to occur. This is what education is all about. It means to spread knowledge. Replace darkness with light on a broad scale.”
What is next for the Filipino scholars once they have finished their studies? “The plan is to return to our respective institutions and carry out knowledge transfer to aspiring students in the field of science and technology,” said Sejera.
Purio, meanwhile, plans on returning to his alma mater, Adamson University, to impart what he learned in Japan after he completes his PhD degree and supporting government projects related to this endeavor. “Furthermore, I envision setting up our own ground station in the university to continue our efforts to support space-related activities while involving our students by providing them hands-on training.”
Bautista hopes to contribute to the growing space industry back home. “Maybe in the Philippine Space Agency or in the academe so that I could share the things I learned in Kyutech and apply it for the future satellites that our country will build. A startup relating to satellites or my research is also one that I’m looking into,” he says. He also shared that he plans to continue what he has learned in Japan, from his research in Perovskite solar cells to satellite systems engineering, to hopefully providing meaningful output for the Philippines.
Government scholarships are basically investments in building the country’s knowledge base, and this particular investment seems to be worth it for the DOST-SEI. “We are ecstatic over Maya-2’s successful deployment to space and incredibly proud of the DOST-SEI STeP-UP scholar-engineers behind it,” says the agency’s director Dr. Josette T. Biyo. “They exemplify the perseverance of Filipinos and the brilliance of our science scholars. Maya-2 proves that the country’s space program and science scholarships are investments worthy of people’s support.”
“The successful launching of Maya-2 makes me feel proud,” said DOST Secretary Fortunato de la Peña . “The accomplishment made possible by our young researchers and engineers should
make us confident that we can do more in the area of space technology. I have high hopes that we as a people will be able to benefit more from developments in this area — all towards making
the quality of life of our people better.”
Philippine Space Agency (PhilSA) Director General Dr. Joel Marciano, Jr. envisions a bright future for the Philippine satellites. “Just as how computers on Earth have helped to improve our lives, satellites like Maya-2 are ‘computers in orbit’ that work for us from space,” says Marciano. “With the release of Maya-2 from the ISS, the genius words of Mark Weiser, father of ubiquitous computing, resonate with renewed meaning and inspiration: ‘ The most profound technologies are those that disappear. They weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it ’. Like Diwata-1, Maya-1 and Diwata-2 before it, Maya-2 now ‘blends’ into the background to serve and perform its mission.”
The next satellites Maya-3, -4, -5, and -6 are already in their respective development phases.