Maya-3 and Maya-4: The First Philippine University-Built Satellites in Space
ILLUSTRATOR ANTONELLA P. VENTURA
Space always gets us excited, particularly if it’s Philippine space programs we’re talking about. Over the long weekend, the Philippines launched its first-ever Philippine university-built satellites into space, marking a new milestone for Filipino space initiatives.
The new satellites are called Maya-3 and Maya-4, and they were built by engineering students at the University of the Philippines. The two satellites were launched into space aboard SpaceX Cargo Dragon C208, which was contracted by NASA for a mission to resupply the International Space Station.
Here’s everything you need to know about the Mayas in space:
Maya-3 & Maya-4
Maya-3 and Maya-4 are actually the second and third Mayas currently in space. The first completed its mission in 2020 and the second is currently in low Earth orbit.
Maya-3 and Maya-4, which only weigh 1.15 kilograms each, will be tasked with capturing images and videos with the five-megapixel cameras attached to the cubes. These will be used to assess landmasses, bodies of water, and remote areas in the Philippines. The cubes are also equipped with two antennas, solar array panels, a GPS chip, and a lever switch. Like Maya-2, Maya-3 and Maya-4 will be put into a low Earth orbit.
Maya-1 and Maya-2 were the first nanosatellites to be developed and launched by Filipinos. The graduate students behind the first two Mayas were graduate students at the Kyushu Institute of Technology (Kyutech) in Japan. However, Maya-3 and Maya-4 made history as the first Philippine university-built nanosatellites sent to space.
It’s an important fact that the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and the University of the Philippines (UP) is quite proud of. Maya-3 and Maya-4 were developed by graduate students from UP-Diliman that are part of the first batch of scholars under the Space Science and Technology Proliferation through University Partnerships (STeP-UP). STeP-UP is comprised of promising young engineers from the UP Electrical and Electronics Engineering Institute following the nano-satellite engineering track.
The scholars behind Maya-3 and Maya-4 are: Renzo S. Wee, Judiel L. Reyes, Christy Raterta, Marielle Magbanua-Gregorio, Lorilyn Daquioag, Bryan Custodio, Derick B. Canceran, and Gladys Bajaro.
STeP-UP itself is under the Space Technology and Applications Mastery, Innovation, and Advancement (STAMINA4Space) Program, which is funded and supported by the DOST, with scholarship grants from its Science Education Institute (SEI). STAMINA4Space is considered the successor of the Philippine Scientific Earth Observation Microsatellite (PHL-Microsat) program, the pioneering program that sent the Philippines’ first microsatellites and nanosatellites into space.
In partnership with Kyutech, the STeP-UP project focuses on teaching its students how to build nanosatellites on the UP campus, and these cube satellites are then tested at Kyutech.
Maya-3 and Maya-4 were sent to space via the SpaceX CRS-23 mission, which was a resupply mission from NASA for the ISS. Also aboard the SpaceX Cargo Dragon C208 were a number of experiments and cube satellites from other countries, such as Puerto Rico, U.K., Australia, and the U.S.A.
The launch of the two Mayas was a big step for Philippine space research, and STAMINA4Space already has plenty more milestones planned. Maya-5 and Maya-6 are currently in development, with a tentative launch date in 2022, and MULA could be launched by 2023. Once it’s complete, MULA will be tasked with monitoring natural disasters, forest management, crop management, land use, and changes in land mapping. At 130 kilograms, it will be the country’s largest satellite and usher in a new era of Philippine space research.