First Filipino-made satellite 'Diwata-1' launched into space

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Diwata-1, the country's first microsatellite, launched into space on board an Atlas V rocket on Wednesday (March 23) at around 11 a.m. PHT. The rocket took off from Cape Canaveral, Florida in the U.S.

The Filipino-made microsatellite will be brought to the International Space Station (ISS), where it will be calibrated before rocketing into mission.

At the space station, Diwata will be housed in the Japanese Experiment Module (JEM) nicknamed “Kibo,” and by the end of April, the JEM Small Satellite Orbital Deployer (J-SSOD) will release Diwata-1 into space at an altitude of 400 kilometers from the Earth's surface.

Diwata-1 will be in orbit for about 18 to 20 months.

The microsatellite has four specialized cameras for imaging weather patterns, agricultural productivity, and land and water resources. Diwata-1 is expected to be in orbit for approximately 20 months, taking images twice daily.

And while country's first microsatellite is still in orbit, its sister Diwata-2 will be launched late 2017 or early 2018.

A viewing session of the rocket launch was organized at the Electrical and Electronics Engineering Institute, University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman.

The session will connect the Philippines (UP and Department of Science and Technology) and Japan (Hokkaido University and Tohoku University) through video conferencing.

A 'heavyweight fairy'

Named after a Filipino mythological character, the 50-kilogram Diwata, or "fairy," was designed and developed by an all-Filipino team of scientists and engineers who are now based in Japan.

Diwata is a flagship project of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) meant not just to place the Philippines in the map of space innovation, but also to reap its contributions to agricultural productivity, food security, and even tourism.

"[They] were trained in this technology in our hope of providing vital information to our farmers so they will be prepared on what crops to plant, when to plant and how they can provision contingencies in overcoming the ill effects of El Nino up to the middle of 2016,” said DOST Sec. Mario Montejo.

“The satellite will also aid the rest of the country in terms of agriculture and tourism, with the satellite giving data that will help farmers decide what crops to plant and where, while also capturing the country’s natural wonders."

Once launched into space, the microsatellite will be able to send critical information on weather systems which are crucial for local farmers in adjusting their planting methods and procedures with the prevalence of climate change.

Now that satellite data and imageries will be more accessible, Montejo expressed optimism that this satellite technology will also boost the capability of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) to make accurate forecasts and weather monitoring.

"These same data can be used to monitor our forest cover and natural resources, implement a responsive disaster risk management program like Project NOAH (Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards), enhance water resources management systems, and improve weather monitoring and forecasting," said Montejo.