Our Place in Space
Space is the expanse above us, which can bridge our islands, communities and wherever Filipinos may go. Rockets and space travel uplift us in mind, spirit and body; Being in space, building in space, with its high vantage point, empowers us.
The usual images that come to mind of space and space agencies are of rockets, astronauts, and of sending space probes to explore the outer reaches of our solar system and galaxy, among others. These are valid and natural, and they have a place in our collective consciousness that yearns to understand our origins and place in the universe. Sending satellites and spacecraft into orbit, however, does not always necessarily entail an exploration or outward spectating towards the vast expanse of space. It can also be used to put an artificial and helpful eye to view the lands and oceans below on Earth from above.
In the Philippines, our satellites and their cameras are currently trained back down towards Earth to gather data about our natural and built environment. The data gathered is computed upon and transformed into information so we can make informed and intelligent action here on terra firma. In that sense, these satellites that generate and compute data are like computers, and sending them into space, we say, is akin to putting computers in orbit. Therefore, it should be easier to appreciate how space improves our lives. Just as how we have come to depend on computers, satellites are computers placed hundreds of kilometers above us. Being there gives them a high and strategic vantage point, which makes them more powerful, helpful and effective in impacting our lives.
In Our Place in Space, we compile and select showcases from the prior initiatives in Space Science & Technology and Applications (SSTA) in the Philippines. These activities have been undertaken by different groups from the academe, research institutions and government agencies, which we acknowledge at the end of each of the three Volumes in the compilation. Each Volume highlights a different component of SSTA that contribute to the growth of the space ecosystem in the country. The simple and humble goal is to create better awareness of local SSTA capabilities and the benefits that they bring to Filipino society.
In coming up with the compilation, we considered the segmentation of the space economy and industry into two complementary sectors: the Upstream and the Downstream. Upstream space activities consist of the design, assembly, integration and testing of satellites and other spacecraft and their payloads, systems, subsystems, and components. This also includes the infrastructure necessary to launch and operate them from Earth. In other words, the upstream segment is the sector of space that makes or manufactures, controls and launches objects such as satellites, rovers, space probes and other spacecraft into space orbit. Downstream space uses these spacecraft and systems to deliver products and services for scientific, experimental and commercial use on Earth, such as telecommunications, navigation, surveillance and Earth observation, among others.
Our country has been an active user in the downstream of satellites and space. That is, the utilization of the images, data, communication and other services enabled by satellites. That is valuable since the downstream is expected to largely account for the growth of the space sector and therefore its contributions to the economic growth of nations. Data, connectivity and the resulting actionable information and intelligence is the currency of the knowledge economy. Current downstream activities in SSTA are discussed in Volume 1: Space Data Utilization.
A strong presence in the space upstream sector is also important for our country. The upstream involves components of the space value chain that offer a strategic advantage to those who master and control such technologies. For example, the detailed knowledge and competence on the upstream engagement serves as the basis for the development of standards and operations that influence the downstream, such as end user applications and the needs of satellite operators. Building space satellite payloads and buses equip us with the wherewithal to adapt to and anticipate evolving downstream requirements, thus the ability to customize solutions for existing and new downstream verticals. Building satellites enables us to understand the source of the solutions – the source of the data. Current upstream activities in SSTA in the Philippines are addressed primarily in Volume 2: Space Technology.
By engaging in both the upstream and downstream of space, we can instantiate a “virtuous cycle” in this exponentially growing and exciting new area that our country should nurture and feed. The virtuous cycle will enable us to develop endogenous S&T capacity that will supplant the vicious cycle of technological dependence.
The downstream and upstream SSTA activities that have catapulted our country’s capabilities in space need to be proliferated, disseminated and sustained. In Volume 3: Capacity-building, Outreach and Sustainability , we provide a window to the inward- and outward-facing initiatives aimed at developing people, institutions, linkages, partnerships and outreach activities. These activities are essential in cascading the gains and benefits obtained from our satellite development and space data mobilization efforts to society. By capturing the best (so far) of our nascent Philippine space ecosystem in these pages, we hope that you will find them not only informative, but also inspiring. Through these value creation activities in space, we shall bridge, uplift and empower the nation. Within these pages, we find and affirm Our Place in Space.