UK Takes the Helm of International Effort to Provide Satellite Images in Times of Crisis

Wednesday 11th May 2011 – Today the UK assumes leadership of the International Charter: Space and Major Disasters at a meeting in London. The Charter is an organisation that coordinates space agencies worldwide in gathering vital satellite images of disaster-stricken regions – providing the images to civil protection authorities to inform their response efforts and save lives.

As Chair of the Charter, the UK Space Agency will take responsibility for implementing strategy and policy, and has committed to finding ways of widening national access to the Charter’s services.

Speaking ahead of his keynote address at the Charter Board Meeting in London, Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts said:

“The Charter is a great example of the enormous benefits space can bring to our everyday lives. It provides invaluable and immediate satellite images during times of crisis, from tracking extreme weather or to dealing with the aftermath of earthquakes and tsunamis, as we saw very recently in Japan.

“During the UK’s chairmanship we’re keen to build on the Charter’s success and open up international access to the world’s satellite resources. This means the Charter will play an even bigger role in helping countries respond effectively to emergencies, and ultimately help save lives.”

Since it was set up in 1999, the Charter has provided images during more than 300 disasters in more than 100 countries – most recently following the earthquake in Japan and the recent severe tornadoes in the southern United States.

Membership of the Charter is open to all space agencies able to contribute satellite images. Uniquely, the UK is a member on a public-private basis that makes optimal use of the available government and commercial expertise. The UK Space Agency holds a seat on the Charter’s Board, providing direction and examining ways to improve Charter performance in future. DMC International Imaging Ltd (DMCii) operates the Disaster Monitoring Constellation (DMC), a currently five-strong commercial satellite constellation made available as part of the Charter satellite fleet, and implements the day-to-day Charter process as a member of the Charter’s Executive Secretariat.
Dr Alice Bunn, Assistant Director of Earth Observation for the UK Space Agency and the new Chair of the Charter said:
“As one of the funding members of this crucial collaboration, the UK Space Agency is looking forward to leading the Charter over the next six months. Charter satellites have provided satellite data for most major disasters over the last ten years, including Hurricane Katrina, the BP oil spill, the floods in Pakistan, and the earthquake in Haiti.

“The Charter is an impressive demonstration of space agencies around the world working together to provide a humanitarian response to disasters, providing data quickly and free of charge.”

So far this year, the Charter has been activated for the flooding in Australia, Brazil, Mozambique, Namibia and most recently in central Midwest America, as well as hurricane Yasi, and earthquakes in Pakistan and New Zealand and Japan.

David Hodgson, DMCii’s member of the Charter’s Executive Secretariat said:
“The Charter is still being run in much the same way as when it began in 2000 with three members. Now, with the German Aerospace Center (DLR) joining last year, membership is up to 14. The practical implications of this increase need addressing to keep the Charter operating in the same efficient and streamlined manner.”

The Charter has been activated over UK territory a total of five times to date: twice during the 2007 floods, once during the Lyme Bay oil spill that same year and twice during volcanic eruptions on the British Overseas Territory of Montserrat in 2003 and 2008 respectively.

A simulated UK Charter activation also took place in March during Exercise Watermark, a national flood response exercise involving 10,000 participants, with the Environment Agency and Welsh Assembly receiving archived images from the 2007 floods. The Charter’s Authorised User in the UK is the Civil Contingencies Secretariat, part of the UK Cabinet Office assigned to civil protection duties.

Julia Short
UK Space Agency
Tel: +44 (0)1793 418069
Mobile: +44 (0)7770 276721

Robin Wolstenholme
Tel: +44 (0)1306 882288

Sally Catmull
BIS Press Office
Tel: +44 (0)207 215 6577
Mobile: +44 (0)7775 007120


• The first UK-chaired Charter board meeting of the UK’s current Chairmanship is taking place this week (9th-13th May 2011) in London.
• The International Charter aims at providing a unified system of space data acquisition and delivery to those affected by natural or man-made disasters through Authorized Users. Each member agency has committed resources to support the provisions of the Charter and thus is helping to mitigate the effects of disasters on human life and property.
• The only bodies authorized to request the services of the Charter are the authorized users, who have been given the single confidential phone number. An authorized user is a civil protection, rescue, defense or security body from the country of a Charter member. Those eligible to become members of the Charter include space agencies and national or international space system operators. Further details are available in the Charter statement.

Current Charter members include:
o European Space Agency (ESA)
o Centre national d’études spatiales (CNES)
o Canadian Space Agency (CSA)
o Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)
o National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
o Argentina’s Comisión Nacional de Actividades Espaciales (CONAE)
o Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)
o United States Geological Survey (USGS)
o UK Space Agency / DMC International Imaging (DMC)
o China National Space Administration (CNSA)
o German Aerospace Center (DLR)
o Korean Aerospace Research Institute (KARI)
o Russian Federal Space Agency (ROSCOSMOS)
o Brazilian National Institute for Space Reseach (INPE)

About DMC International Imaging Ltd
DMC International Imaging Ltd (DMCii) is a UK based supplier of remote sensing data products and services for international Earth Observation (EO) markets. DMCii supplies programmed and archived optical satellite imagery provided by the multi-satellite Disaster Monitoring Constellation. DMCii?s data is now used in a wide variety of commercial and government applications including agriculture, forestry and environmental mapping. DMCii was formed in October 2004 and is a subsidiary of Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL), the world leader in small satellite technology. SSTL designed and built the Disaster Monitoring Constellation with the support of the BNSC and in conjunction with the Disaster Monitoring Constellation member nations Algeria, China, Nigeria, Turkey and Spain.

About the UK Space Agency
The UK Space Agency is at the heart of UK efforts to explore and benefit from space. It is responsible for all strategic decisions on the UK civil space programme and provides a clear, single voice for UK space ambitions. Second only to the USA in space science, the UK’s thriving space sector contributes £7.5bn a year to the UK economy, directly employs 24,900 and supports a further 60,000 jobs across a variety of industries.

The UK Space Agency:
• Co-ordinates UK civil space activity
• Encourages academic research
• Supports the UK space industry
• Raises the profile of UK space activities at home and abroad
• Increases understanding of space science and its practical benefits
• Inspires our next generation of UK scientists and engineers
• Licences the launch and operation of UK spacecraft
• Promotes co-operation and participation in the European Space programme