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Chinese space agency joins the International Charter ‘Space and Major Disasters’

The China National Space Administration has become the newest member of the International Charter 'Space and Major Disasters', a joint initiative that works to provide emergency response satellite data free of charge to those affected by disasters anywhere in the world.

China National Space Administration (CNSA) Administrator Prof. Dr Sun Laiyan signed the Charter on 24 May at ESA headquarters in Paris, France, in the presence of ESA Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain and CNES Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Yannick d'Escatha.

"The International Charter ‘Space and Major Disasters’ has proven to be a very successful mechanism for international cooperation among partners for contributing Earth observation data," Dordain said. "We are delighted to welcome the newcomer CNSA of China to the programme today."

Each member of the International Charter ‘Space and Major Disasters’ has demonstrated its commitment to using space assets when it is most needed, such as when disasters of natural and human origin strike the world’s communities or wreak havoc on the environment. To date, the Charter has been activated more than 125 times.

With CNSA's addition, disaster management authorities will now not only have access to Chinese satellite data archives but also to data from new CNSA missions.

Last month, two American commercial satellite imagery firms – DigitalGlobe and GeoEye – joined forces with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), a Charter member, representing a unique collaboration between governments and industry in the area of commercial space imaging that benefits people worldwide.

GeoEye and DigitalGlobe own and operate Earth-imaging satellites that acquire very high-resolution images. DigitalGlobe's QUICKBIRD and GeoEye's IKONOS satellites, for example, capture panchromatic images with a resolution of one metre or less.

While there is normally a cost associated with obtaining high-resolution commercial satellite scenes, the two companies will donate some archived imagery and provide newly tasked imagery to USGS and the Charter.

Most recently, the Charter was invoked on 8 May 2007 after the worst flooding to hit Uruguay for half a century caused the evacuation of 12 000 people in the provinces of Durazno, Treinta y Tres and Mercedes. Charter members provided satellite images, providing key information on the stricken areas.

The European and French space agencies (ESA and CNES) initiated the International Charter ‘Space and Major Disasters’ following the UNISPACE III conference held in Vienna, Austria in July 1999. The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) joined the Charter on 20 October 2000.

Other members currently include the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Argentine Space Agency (CONAE), the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), the British National Space Centre/Disaster Monitoring Constellation (BNSC/DMC) and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

Simonetta Cheli | alfa
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