To the moon and back: PhilSA’s roadmap towards a space-capable and spacefaring nation

It feels like it was just yesterday when RA 11363 or “The Philippine Space Act” was signed, establishing the country’s  space agency, and formally thrusting the Philippines into the space race.

I remember when I was a kid, my cousins and I would often dream about going to space as astronauts. There’s just something about seeing the light in the darkness that entices us to think about what it feels to work in space. Growing up, that dream slowly turned into an impossible ambition, thinking that we’re such fools in wanting to achieve something that is beyond our means.

The Philippines as captured from space by Japanese astronaut Noguchi Soichi on April 7, 2021.

But now, it is such a delight to finally have our space agency, and this surely sparks an opportunity for young individuals like me to learn and pursue a path in exploring space.

On April 20, 2021, The Philippine Space Agency (PhilSA) was in the Philippines Focus panel of the Asia-Pacific Satellite Communications Council (APSCC) 2021 Webinar Series. PhilSA Director General Dr. Joel Marciano, and PhilSA Deputy Director General Dr. Gay Jane Perez talked about the importance and benefits of joining the space race.

The roadmap for space program development

The Philippine Space Agency is mandated to initiate policies, as well as to plan, coordinate, and implement the same, aligned with the country’s national space policy framework. This framework focuses on national security  and development, hazard management and climate studies,  space research and development (R&D), space industry and capacity building, space education and awareness, and international cooperation.

During the webinar, the  agency presented its roadmap for space program development, which encompasses both the upstream and downstream space sectors.

In the upstream, PhilSA seeks to continue developing and building satellites and space systems. PhilSA says that these are vital components of a national  information infrastructure.

“When we build satellites, we are building, learning and mastering difficult technology which can be a differentiator for local industries. What works in space, perhaps you can make it work in other industrial environments and hard to reach places,” Dr. Marciano explains.

The first Director General of the agency adds, there is a need to “leverage” the country’s data science, artificial intelligence, and analytics capability in the downstream sector. “The idea is to drive the society with evidence-based interventions for policy and decision support that will optimize our resources towards making them more responsive and relevant to our needs.”

Dr. Perez, meanwhile,  notes these programs would not stand on their own, and this is why the agency makes sure that these are a larger integral part of the process of building an integrated and sustainable national space program.

Having a sovereign satellite

The agency wants to achieve a thriving local space ecosystem within 10 years on both downstream and upstream.

It is often viewed that this ambition was mainly to serve national pride in having our own satellites and perhaps the first ever Filipino astronaut on the International Space Station in the future. PhilSA explains, a national space program likewise serves to spur innovation and new enterprise.

“More than just pride is the idea of a sovereign satellite” Dr. Perez says.

The Deputy Director General points out that apart from commercially available satellites, the country has to have national satellites for security and first-hand access to data that other countries don’t have access to.  

Most importantly, according to Dr. Perez: ”As our space agency spearheads the space activity of the country, it signals a nation’s readiness and confidence to engage, and escalates it’s space-enabled services with the support of the government and private partners.”

It is best that we understand that the Philippines, joining the “space race,” is not a matter of who gets to the finish line first, but rather, a journey towards the destination of becoming a space-capable and spacefaring nation.

About the Author

Bernard Joel Victorio is a Marketing sophomore in the Adamson University and currently an editorial intern of SubSelfie.com.

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