Maya-1: The Philippines’ First CubeSat
CubeSats are miniaturized satellites that are used for a variety of purposes, including Earth observation, research, commercial and educational purposes.
The CubeSat standard, which was developed by Stanford University and California Polytechnic State University in 1999, defines the specifications required for a CubeSat.
For example, the basic CubeSat, as defined in these standards, consists of a single unit called a “1U” that measures 10cm x 10cm x 10xm. Larger CubeSats are available, and they are built up from multiples of this singular unit. That is, a 2U CubeSat is two 1U units, a 3U is three standard units, and so on.
CubeSats can be launched directly from a rocket as a shared payload, or they can be otherwise deployed from the International Space Station(ISS) via a special piece of hardware called a deployer.
In August 2018, three of these 1U CubeSats were deployed from the ISS, after having hitched a ride on board a SpaceX Falcon 9 a couple of months earlier.
The three CubeSats were part of the Birds-2Project, which is an initiative led by Kyushu Institute of Technology (Kyutech) in Japan.
The Birds CubeSat project is aimed at providing technology and knowledge transfer to developing space nations, and Birds-2, as you might guess from the name, was the project’s second iteration.
In this second iteration of the Birds project, three nations were responsible for the design and manufacture of the small satellites: the Philippines, Bhutan and Malaysia.
The three CubeSats are named Maya-1, which was designed by students from University of Philippines Diliman; BHUTAN-1, from Bhutan University; and UiTMSAT-1, from Universiti Teknologi MARA in Malaysia.
We spoke to Filipino engineer Joven Javier, who along with colleague Adrian Salces was responsible for the design of Maya-1 while studying satellite design at Kyutech.
“The Birds project aims to provide knowledge of CubeSat development as a platform for educational proliferation. It provides local students with knowledge of mission design and systems design, which will help to cultivate local talent in space technology,” said Javier.
“I spent two years on a master’s program at Kyushu Institute of Technology, where I received training on CubeSat development. Now I have returned to the Philippines, where I can share this knowledge at DOST-ASTI and UP Diliman.”
DOST-ASTI (Department of Science and Technology/Advanced Science and Technology Institute) is a Philippine government agency, which along with University of Philippines Diliman has been instrumental in developing the Philippines space capability—not only assisting with the development of Maya-1, but also with designing and constructing two larger microsatellites named Diwata-1 and Diwata-2 (the latter having been launched in 2018).
Maya-1, and the other Birds-2 satellites are equipped with a variety of payloads the students designed.
Each satellite includes:
- 2 cameras. Two identical cameras with two different lenses are installed on each CubeSat for the purpose of capturing images of the engineers’ home countries.
- Automatic Packet Reporting System Digipeater (APRS-DP). This system can receive text messages from amateur radio operators here on Earth, and can broadcast the messages within the coverage area of the CubeSat.
- GPS chip tech demonstration. This was a newly developed piece of hardware designed to demonstrate low power operation capabilities in space.
- Single Event Latch-up (SEL) monitor. Space radiation is a hazard for satellite electronics, and high energy particles from space can cause SELs as they pass through the satellite’s electronic hardware. The SEL monitor logs such events.
- The onboard magnetometers are used to measure the magnetic field in space and compare it with the one measured on the ground.
A variety of software was used in the development of Maya-1 and the other Birds-2CubeSats.
“The aluminum CubeSat structures were designed using SOLIDWORKS,” said Javier.
“The software was integral in not only designing the hardware and structural interfaces, but was useful in communicating the ideas with the team.”
Not only was SOLIDWORKS useful for the actual CAD modeling, but the team also found value among its other features.
“Now that I have returned to the Philippines,we have started to experiment with SOLIDWORKS Visualize for our knowledge sharing sessions at DOST-ASTI, where I create presentations to help explain the CubeSat to my co-workers. In addition, we plan to use the videos and renderings from Visualize for promotion and outreach purposes. Some of our colleagues plan to use the renderings for their lectures in the new microsatellite track ofthe Electrical Engineering postgraduate course at UP Diliman as well.”
Maya-1 animation.(Video courtesy of DOST-ASTI.)
The new course that Javier mentioned will be starting at UP Diliman in January 2019, and is part of the STEP-UP project, which stands for Space Science and Technology Proliferation through University Partnerships. The initiative is designed to empower local engineering students with space technology through lectures and workshops. The curriculum will include lectures on CubeSat development at UP Diliman, as well as an exchange with Kyutech, where Filipino students will gain hands-on experience with space environment testing methods and equipment.
The STEP-Up project aims to launch two CubeSats per year.
“The Birds project has helped us to learn how the satellite bus system is designed in a 1U CubeSat. With this knowledge transfer, we are currently developing the next-generation CubeSat project in the Philippines at UP Diliman, which will be focused on bringing more of the design and manufacturing back home.”
So, as you can see from the new course at UP Diliman, the Birds project is already achieving its goal of propagating space technology to developing space nations. And that’s a good thing!
We look forward to bringing you news of Maya-2—or some variant of the theme—in the not too distant future.
About the Author
Phillip Keane is currently studying his PhD at the School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. His background is in aerospace engineering, and his current studies are focused on the use of 3D-printed components in spaceflight. He previously worked at Rolls-Royce and Airbus Military and served as an intern for Made In Space and the European Southern Observatory.