Maya-2 and more: Up close with the Mapúan developer of PH’s new nanosatellite recently deployed in space

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Maya-2 and more: Up close with the Mapúan developer of PH’s new nanosatellite recently deployed in space

Engr. Marloun P. Sejera, one of the three developers of the Philippines' second nanosatellite, Maya-2, and Electronics and Communications Engineering alumnus of Mapúa University, at the Kyushu Institute of Technology (Kyutech) Center for Nanosatellite Testing (CeNT) facility.

The Philippines can expect more great things from the Mapúan who was part of the development and deployment of the country’s second nanosatellite, Maya-2.

Maya-2 cube satellite (CubeSat) was just launched into space last month, but Engr. Marloun Pelayo Sejera, a Mapúa University Electronics and Communications Engineering (ECE) alumnus, is already involved in building two more nanosatellites.

Sejera is one of the three brilliant Filipino minds behind the creation of the Maya-2, together with Izrael Zenar Casople Bautista and Mark Angelo Cabrera Purio.

Maya-2 is the country’s second nanosatellite launched for the International Space Station (ISS) last February 2021 under the fourth Joint Global Multi-Nation Birds Satellite project (BIRDS-4 Project).

“I was filled with pride watching the Cygnus-15 spacecraft carrying our satellites launched last February 21. It was a relief when the Cygnus-15 successfully docked the ISS,” Sejera shared.

Specifically, Sejera was in charge of building the communications subsystem for the nanosatellite as well as its Automatic Packet Reporting System (APRS).

An APRS is a radio-based system that encodes real-time digital information transmission. The communications subsystem makes sure that the nanosatellite has a reliable communication transmittal with ground stations ensuring continuous satellite missions.

Mapúa, making it possible

Sejera shared that his learning experience and academic life in Mapúa University equipped him with the necessary training and developmental skills in building Maya-2.

“Mapúa has been very supportive and involved from the beginning of my career in nanosatellite development. They opened the opportunity for me from teaching to being one of the Philippine delegates in Small Satellite Mission workshop in India, and now my involvement in the BIRDS-4 Project,” Sejera said.

In November 2017, Sejera was invited as a Philippine delegate to attend a short course on Small Satellite Mission held at Dehradun, India. This was funded by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

This workshop further piqued the interest of Sejera in satellite development and gave him a clearer point of view of what he wanted to pursue with regards to his graduate studies.

He was then able to join the BIRDS-4 Project in 2018, with the University serving as his stepping stone.

In early 2018, Mapúa was informed about the capacity-building initiative of the Philippine Scientific Earth Observation Microsatellite Program (PHL-Microsat), wherein three Filipinos would be chosen to be sent to Kyushu Institute of Technology (Kyutech) in Fukuoka, Japan.

The Maya-2 CubeSat. Photo courtesy of Mark Angelo Purio.

Sejera felt that the opportunity came right on time, so he applied immediately for the program and underwent a careful selection process. He shared that he was fortunate enough and truly honored to be selected as one of the delegates to represent the country.

The program gave the participants the opportunity to study Space Engineering and build the Philippines' second CubeSat through the BIRDS-4 project, which is now known as the Maya-2.

“The support that I got from Mapúa is very essential in pursuing my doctorate at Kyutech. Having been involved in the project, Mapúa will be able to participate in the dissemination of space, science and technology, and satellite development in the country,” he added.

The BIRDS-4 Project

It is the Philippines’ second time joining Kyutech’s BIRDS project, which is an interdisciplinary satellite project for non-space faring countries. The country first joined in the BIRDS-2 project resulting in Maya-1, developed and deployed in 2018.

For two years, participants learned how to design, develop, and operate 1U CubeSats. The knowledge and experience that participants gained in the project could in turn be passed on when they return to their respective countries.

The BIRDS-4 project kicked-off on November 2018.

The team is composed of 14 students from different countries: three participants from the Philippines; two from Paraguay; four from Japan; one from Nepal; one from Turkey; one from Sudan; one from France; and one from Egypt.

Sejera pointed out that under the program, he and other participants were able to deliver a number of satellites to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) in October 2020.

“Despite the cultural differences and work habits, the team was able to work harmoniously toward a common goal,” Sejera explained.

We can surely expect more brilliant minds to crop up in the coming years, as the Filipino spirit remains persevering, resilient, passionate, and driven. These traits and attitudes will surely help Filipinos excel further and leave their marks in society.

“Think outside the box and expand your horizon. As the great Albert Einstein said, ‘We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them’,” he concluded.

Last March 14, Maya-2 was successfully deployed into orbit from the ISS. Its main mission is to store and forward data from space. This mission allows the satellite to capture data transmitted from ground sensors and send to ground stations for data analysis.