Maya-3, Maya-4 end mission, return to Earth

15th August, 2022.      //   Space Travel  // 


Maya-3 and Maya-4 are back on Earth. The first Philippine university-built cube satellites (cubesats) have been decommissioned 10 months after their deployment into orbit, and re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere on August 4 (10:01 p.m. PST) and August 8 (4:09 p.m. PST), respectively, the Space Technology and Applications Mastery, Innovation and Advancement (Stamina4Space) Program announced.

The cubesats were designed and developed by the first batch of scholars under the Space Science and Technology Proliferation through University Partnerships (STeP-UP) project of the Stamina4Space Program.


The first batch of STeP-UP scholars with the Maya-3, Maya-4 flight model.

“Maya-3 and Maya-4 were pivotal in the development of the local space industry,” Dr. Maricor Soriano, program leader of Stamina4Space Program, said as she pointed out the significance of the cubesats.

Being experimental and educational platforms, and while all low earth orbiting satellites will eventually fall to earth, Soriano said, “what matters more are the lasting intangibles that the project brought—knowledge, skill, partnerships and confidence that we can do it.”

“Maya-3 and Maya-4 showed that the country is capable of building satellites locally,” said Engr. Renzo S. Wee, one of the engineers who developed the satellites.

“We have successfully transferred the knowledge and know-how acquired abroad by virtue of foreign studies and proliferated those lessons locally,” Wee added.


The Maya-3 and Maya-4 cube satellites

Wee was joined in developing the cubesats by Engr. Gladys Bajaro, Judiel Reyes, Derick Canceran, Marielle Magbanua-Gregorio, Lorilyn Daquioag, Bryan Custodio and Christy Raterta in the development of the satellites, Stamina4Space said.

Maya-3’s and Maya-4’s bus systems were fashioned after Maya-1’s bus heritage, with enhancements on the antenna board.

One of the missions of both satellites is to carry a commercial off-the-shelf Automatic Packet Reporting System-Digipeater Payload Demonstration (APRS-DP mission), which uses packet radio technology to transmit information over amateur radio.

The cubesats were identical except for a near-infrared camera mounted on Maya-4, which made the only difference in their missions.

Both were able to transmit APRS beacons to 10 countries on different occasions.

Stamina4Space said different amateur radio operators from eight countries were also successful in digipeating through the satellites.

Maya-3 and Maya-4’s engineers also looked back to the challenges they faced during the development of the satellites.



Maya-3 and Maya-4, along with Binar-1 from Curtin University, Australia, were deployed from the Kibo on October 6, 2021.

“It was a great challenge to be the first to do such a project locally. Being the pioneering batch to have a local project for satellite development was not easy since expectations were high. We had a vague map of where we were going, but we were tasked to navigate it in a local setting. But it became our greatest achievement, we were able to build the satellites and successfully deployed them into orbit,” Reyes said.

Bajaro also recalled the larger lessons she learned from developing the satellites.

“I learned a great deal about the different concepts in nanosatellite development and testing. Properly defining the design and test requirements and habitually revisiting these criteria are important as they will be the foundation when making critical decisions throughout the development phase of a satellite. But aside from that, it also helped me develop trust with my team members and nudge them to meet the project goal,” Bajaro said.

STeP-UP Project Leader Engr. Paul Jason Co said that the Maya-3 and Maya-4 engineers are anticipated to become part of the country’s local space industry. He also laid out future plans for the space industry.

“With Maya-3 and Maya-4, we proved that we can build our own cube satellites locally. We can locally develop the necessary expertise for our budding space industry. Now, Maya-5 and Maya-6 are on the way which will be continued by the Philippine Space Agency, through the Advancing Core Competencies and Expertise in Space Studies Nanosat Project,” Co said.

The cubesats were launched to the International Space Station on August 29, 2021, aboard the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket’s Dragon C208, Stamina4Space said.

On October 6, 2021, the CubeSats were deployed into orbit via Kibo Laboratory Module, along with Binar-1, developed by Curtin University in Australia.

The next day, on October 7, beacons from the cubesats were immediately received and decoded during their 9 a.m. PST pass remotely through the Philippine Universities Ground Archiving and Data Reception station in UP Diliman (UPD).

Maya-3 and Maya-4 were built under the STeP-UP project of the Stamina4Space Program, which is funded by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and implemented by the UPD and the DOST-Advanced Science and Technology Institute.

The nanosatellite development track is under the Master of Science or Master of Engineering program of the Electrical and Electronics Engineering Institute of the University of the Philippines Diliman.

It is also implemented in collaboration with the Kyushu Institute of Technology in Japan, and with scholarship support from the Department of Science and Technology’s Science Education Institute.

One of Stamina4Space Program’s thrust is to cultivate the local space industry that can be achieved through building cube satellites locally.

The experiences and learnings during the Philippines’ participation in the Joint Global Multi-Nation Birds Satellite Project, which was in partnership with the Kyushu Institute of Technology in Japan led to the development of Maya-3 and Maya-4.

The second batch of scholars of the STeP-UP Project are currently developing two more CubeSats, Maya-5 and Maya-6, which are built after the Maya-2 heritage and are set to be launched in 2023, Stamina4Space Program said.

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