First Filipino-made micro-satellite to help agriculture – DOST-Bicol

Diwata Micro Satellite. Photo courtesy of
Diwata Micro Satellite. Photo courtesy of

LEGAZPI CITY, 18Jan2016 — The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Bicol regional office here has expressed excitement over the first Filipino-made micro-satellite set to be launched this year as part of the government’s efforts towards improving the country’s agricultural activities.

“The talents of our own scientists are working for our people and we are confident that the benefits of this project will boil down to improving the lives of Filipinos in the long run. We are so proud of it,” DOST Bicol Regional Director Tomas Briñas said over the weekend.

The DOST‘s launch into this new horizon is driven mainly by the project’s major nationwide benefits such as improving agricultural productivity and food security, he said.

Once put in place, the microsat would be able to send critical data on weather systems which are crucial for the country’s farmers to adjust planting methods and procedures in the light of climate change.

A landmark project of the DOST through the Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development, the first Filipino made micro-satellite is poised to fly high in the next two months, Briñas said, citing a recent information received from Department of Science and Technology Secretary Mario Montejo.

This micro-satellite, he said, uses cutting-edge technology, designed and assembled by Filipino scientists and engineers on a comprehensive training on satellite technology at Japan’s Tohoko and Hokkaido universities.

Named after Filipino mythological character “Diwata” (fairy), this new astronomical object that weighs just 50 kilograms — but the benefits are indeed heavy — was designed and developed by an all-Filipino team of scientists and engineers now based in Japan, Briñas quoted Montejo as saying.

These Filipino scientists were trained in this technology in the hope of providing vital information to farmers so they will be prepared on what crops to plant, when to plant and how they can come up with provisional contingencies in overcoming the ill effects of El Nino up to the middle of 2016, according to Montejo.

Just like in other countries around the world, Briñas said, this satellite technology will greatly improve the capability of the national weather agency, the DOST’s Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) to make accurate forecasts and weather monitoring that is crucial in agriculture.

The data that will be generated by Diwata will enable DOST-PAGASA to predict extreme weather systems like the El Niño phenomenon that can dramatically affect agricultural productivity and crop yield and threaten food security.

In fact, the PAGASA was able to map out its strategy months in advance before the onset of El Niño last March 2015, made possible due to satellite weather data that was sourced from independent satellite data providers at that time, Briñas said.

Using satellite data and imageries, the country’s weathermen are able to make a forecast on the extent and severity of weather phenomenon in the different provinces and regions on a month-to-month basis.

With Diwata, PAGASA’s forecasting will greatly be improved because of more available data at its disposal that would allow local farmers, agricultural officers of government units and the private sector involved in producing and processing agricultural products to plan and establish safety nets to cushion the impact of the dry spell, according to Briñas.

Earlier, Montejo had said that by investing in the country’s intellectual resources, harnessing the best minds in the country, DOST developed Diwata to provide Filipinos the opportunity to reap the many benefits it offers, aside from information critical to agriculture.

He cited as among these benefits the use of microsat’s data in monitoring the country’s forest cover and natural resources, implementation of a responsive disaster risk management program like Project NOAH, enhance water resources management systems and improve weather monitoring and forecasting, Montejo said.

NOAH is a project that enables the government to address the serious challenges brought by extreme hazard events by applying advanced science and technology tools, such as enhanced vulnerability maps and a shortened six-hour monitoring and flood warning system for communication along major river basins.

It has various components such as Hydromet sensors development, DREAM-Lidar, FloodNET, hazards information media, landslide hazard mapping, Doppler system development and storm surge inundation mapping that address major needs in various disaster situations.

Diwata, branded as “Proudly Filipino Made,” Briñas said, marks a milestone for the country’s venture into outer space as the Philippines and the two Japanese universities as project collaborators hand it over to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) to be “our eye-in-the-sky.”

the JAXA as well as the Tohoko and Hokkaido universities supported the project as apart from training 10 Filipino students in creating and operating micro-satellites, they also shouldered more than P500 million of the P840.82 million program’s budget.

Japan is aiming to create a constellation of micro-satellites within the East and Southeast Asia region and establish Asian Microsatellite Consortium (AMC) together with neighboring countries such as Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines.

Diwata will be sent to the United States, either in Florida or California, by JAXA for its launch into the International Space Station that will orbit the earth 400 kilometers up in space.

The DOST believes that this is a big step forward attaining technological self-reliance by harnessing the power of science, technology and innovation, Briñas added. (PNA)


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