PH eyes launch of ‘bigger’ Earth observation satellite by 2023

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 10) -- The Philippine Space Agency said the country’s biggest satellite yet is now in development for its expected launch into space by 2023.

Multispectral Unit for Land Assessment, or MULA, is a commercial-grade satellite weighing 130 kilograms and has features that will help observe terrestrial ecosystems and assess environment conditions to prepare for disaster management.

“Plans are underway to have a bigger Earth Observation satellite that can capture operational-quality images of approximately 100,000 square kilometers of land area daily,” said PhilSA in its website.

MULA is bigger than the 50-kg Diwata 1 and 56-kg Diwata 2 microsatellites.

It will be capable of capturing high resolution images that can be used for disaster management, land use and land cover change mapping, crop monitoring, and forestry management.

“With its capability to capture higher resolution images, we will be able to better monitor terrestrial ecosystems, as well as our land and marine resources to ensure both agricultural productivity and environmental integrity. In addition, we will also be able to assess environmental conditions to be more proactive in disaster management and mitigation,” said PhilSA Deputy Director-General Gay Jane Perez.

The new satellite will also be equipped with Automatic Identification System and Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast, which can be used for ship and aircraft detection and tracking.

MULA Project Manager John Leur Labrador likened MULA to an astronaut in space.

“We can think of this spacecraft as a Filipino astronaut tasked to take images of our natural resources while monitoring aircraft and ship activity in our country at the same time,” he said. “We aim to significantly increase the land area captured by this satellite compared to our previous ones, effectively increasing the information gathered from the produced images.”

Perez added that the creation of MULA is aimed at strengthening the country’s space technology.

“This is of course done not only to keep up with global competitiveness but most importantly, it is so we can minimize our reliance on foreign technologies…so we can have our own scientists and engineers whose expertise in space science and technologies can be targeted and tailored specifically to the needs of our land and our people,” she said.

The project is being developed by the Department of Science and Technology-funded Advanced Satellite and Know-how Transfer for the Philippines Project, as part of the agency’s “priority agenda under the emerging technologies sector of providing space technology applications to public services.”

The University of the Philippines and the DOST-Advanced Science and Technology Institute are implementing the project, in coordination with PhilSA.

MULA is being designed and manufactured together with British company Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd.