News story

‘Space Emergency Service’ gains international award

A global operation to provide satellite information when disasters strike, which the UK led on earlier this year, has received a major international award.

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The International Charter on Space and Major Disasters received the 2017 William T. Pecora Award for providing satellite earth observations to help save lives worldwide.

The award, sponsored by the US Geological Survey and NASA, was presented yesterday (15 November) in South Dakota, United States.

The Charter is made up of 16 agencies, including the UK Space Agency, which led on the agreement between April and October this year, with Airbus responsible for coordination.

It provides images and other satellite information free of charge to emergency response agencies around the world, whenever major disasters strike.

Since the Charter was founded in 2000, response efforts include the tsunami in Indonesia and Thailand in 2004, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 and the earthquake in Nepal in 2015.

The project launched into action more recently, in September this year, as Hurricane Irma advanced across the Caribbean.

Speaking in the latest edition of Space UK, Remote Sensing Analyst Amalia Castro, who works at the Airbus offices in Guildford, explained:

“I was on call 24/7 for the whole week. I need to think which satellites will be best, what’s their resolution and prepare to task those satellites.”

“We had the potential for storms, floods, flash floods and landslides. I asked for data from 15 different satellites, from several different companies and agencies.”

Chris Lee, who leads the UK’s membership of the Charter for the UK Space Agency, added:

“I think that’s the great thing about the Charter. It’s the collection of all the available satellites from all around the world.”

The award comes as the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology highlights the use of satellite data for disaster risk reduction in its latest POST note: Environmental Earth Observation

You can find out more about the UK’s role in the Charter’s response to Hurricane Irma by reading the latest issue of Space UK.

You can also sign up for updates when new issues are published, subscribe now.

Published 17 November 2017