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2nd PH cube satellite Maya-2 launched into orbit

Article by: Reine Amabel J. Jaruda and Kandhalvi M. Asaali

Graphics by: Cristelle S. Corpuz

Maya-2, the Philippines’ second cube satellite, is now in the low Earth orbit after being deployed from the International Space Station (ISS) last March 14. The nanosatellite, alongside two others from Japan and Paraguay, is a result of the 4th Joint Global Multi-Nation Birds Satellite (BIRDS-4) Project under a partnership between Kyushu Institute of Technology (Kyutech) and the Japan Aerospace and Exploration Agency (JAXA).

The three nanosats were sent aboard the S.S. Katherine Johnson Cygnus spacecraft last February 21 from the National Aeronautics and Space Institute (NASA) launch site in Wallops Island, Virginia before being launched to the ISS.

The Maya-2 team – consisted of Mapúa University (MU) alumnus and School of Electrical, Electronics, and Computer Engineering faculty member Engr. Marloun P. Sejera, Engr. Mark Angelo C Purio, and Engr. Izrael Zenar C. Bautista – worked in Kyutech as part of the Space Science and Technology Proliferation through University Partnerships (STeP-UP) project of the Sustained Support for Local Space Technology and Applications Mastery, Innovation and Advancement (STAMINA4Space) program to take part in the conceptualization and construction of the CubeSat.

Engr. Sejera mentioned in a Zoom interview that the Philippines’ participation in the BIRDS project is for capacity-building, with the skills and experience acquired intended to be imparted to students upon their return. “Yung satellite itself, will help in technology demonstration and acquiring data for science,” he added, shifting the focus onto Maya-2.

Maya-2 is considered a 1U-class cube satellite each side 10cm in length. The 1.3kg nanosatellite is intended to collect data such as weather and infectious disease analysis, all of which will be transmitted to the Department of Science and Technology – Advanced Science and Technology in Quezon City, Metro Manila.

Like its predecessor Maya-1, Maya-2 utilizes the Store-and-Forward System that allows it to retrieve data from ground sensor terminals which it would later relay to other ground stations in its network. Moreover, it is equipped with a camera for image capture, an Automatic Packet Reporting System Message Digipeater (APRS-DP) that allows communication with radios, a Global Positioning System (GPS), as well as attitude determination and control system (ADCS) for maneuvering.

The team also improved on Maya-1’s system and construction when working on Maya-2. Engr. Sejera noted that the latest iteration uses a dipole antenna and an active ADCS whereas the Maya-1 had a monopole antenna and a passive ADCS.

Additionally, Engr. Sejera highlighted the role of Maya-2 in testing perovskite, an organic material that can be used as an alternative to semi-conductor materials in solar cells. “So, the target or the aim of this mission is to demonstrate the use of perovskite material as a material to be used in solar cells,” he expounded.

While the first two Maya satellites were part of engineering projects abroad, the STAMIN4Space program seeks the development of Maya-3 and Maya-4 locally. In line with this, a local nanosatellite engineering track in the Master of Science/ Master of Engineering in Electrical Engineering (MSEE/MEEE) graduate program is being offered at the University of the Philippines – Diliman. The first batch of scholars will then be responsible for developing the next two nanosats.

The MU alumnus shared that there are a lot of opportunities when it comes to space engineering in the Philippines. “And be mindful na hindi lang sa mga electronics engineering students yung opportunity, there is a lot [more][...] Hindi siya enclosed sa electronics, sa computer, at saka sa electrical [engineering]. Open siya to other fields of engineering,” he imparted.

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