An Eagle in Orbit

By Geoffrey Fabic III

Quezon City Science High School

The eagle or "agila" is one of the largest birds of flight. It is well known for its superiority over other birds. One might even argue that the eagle is the ruler of the skies. That is actually an understatement. The eagle not only rules over the skies but it rules over the heavens as well.

Did you know that there is this particular eagle which spreads its wings in space rather than in the air? It is a Filipino breed, and it goes by the name of "AGILA-II".

Agila-II is the Philippines' second multifunction communications satellite. It is a high powered spacecraft designed and built by Space Systems/Loral, and is the largest in their fs13000 satellite series. Not only that, it also has the largest number of active transponders (a total of 54) compared to any other satellite in the region.

The satellite possesses about 10 kilowatts of total on-boardpower, which also makes it the most powerful satellite in the entire Asia-Pacific region. It is said that Agila-II is a high power-to-mass ratio spacecraft and probably the most efficient satellite in the industry.

Agila-II is owned by the Mabuhay Philippines Satellite Corporation (MPSC) which is composed of local firms that include the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company (PLDT), Pilipino Telephone Corp. (Piltel), Republic Broadcasting System (GMA-7), Philippine Communications Satellite Corp. (Philcomsat), Cable Entertainment Corp. (CEC), and the Philippine Satellite Corp. (PSC) accompanied by foreign companies such as the Pasifik Satelit Nusantara (PSN) of Indonesia and the China Everbright Group Limited (CELG).

It was built in Palo Alto California and was launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in China aboard a long March 3B rocket. It was originally scheduled to be launched on August 11, 1997 but was postponed twice due to bad weather caused by typhoon Ibiang.

The satellite was eventually launched into orbit last August 20 at 1:50 a.m., local time from Sichuan Province, China.

The control center for the Agila-II satellite is located in the Subic Bay Freeport Zone. The center is manned by an all-Filipino staff which comprises of engineers, satellite operators, network operators, and other personnel. The staff was trained in the Space Systems/Loral station in California.

The main purpose of the Agila-II project is to expose the Philippines to global information technology (IT). It will greatly benefit the country in telecommunications, entertainment, education, and in the Internet.

With the satellite, schools in distant provinces can use audio-visual receivers for information instead of buying text books that are either too expensive or too hard to obtain (or both).

Agila-II can also provide Filipinos who live in remote areas with quality programming which, before, was only available in certain parts of the country with the use of cable facilities.

The satellite is powerful enough to reach an estimated population of over two billion people. It is capable of transmitting more than 190 channels to cable companies and home satellite dishes. It can also handle more than 50,000 simultaneous two way telephone conversations and will serve as a back-up to the country's telephone network. For the Internet sector, the satellite can allow a 15 megabyte per second speed for data access.

Agila-II is expected to give the Philippines not only global competitiveness, but also an EDGE over other countries.