And disaster imaging is what it’s all about.
Today, a Russian rocket will launch two British-built imaging satellites into orbit. Their purpose? To obtain pictures of areas struck by natural disasters such as floods, hurricanes, earthquakes and fires. These images are used by goverments and relief workers to aid information retrieval and recovery efforts.
The satellites will hitch a ride into orbit on a converted Soviet-era SS-18 intercontinental ballistic missile and join other “Disaster Monitoring Constellations,” including:
- AlSat-1 (Algeria-owned, launched 2002)
- NigeriaSat-1 (Nigeria-owned, launched 2003)
- UK-DMC (UK-0wned, launched 2003)
- BilSat-1 (Turkey-owned, launched 2006 but no longer in operation)
- Deimos-1 (Spain-owned, launched 2009)
- UK-DMC2 (UK-owned, launched 2009)
When they fly over their home territories, the satellites acquire a range of data for domestic use — everything from urban planning to monitoring locust swarms. But when the platforms fly across the rest of the globe, they gather imagery which is pooled and sold on to commercial users. Every so often, however, a major disaster will strike some part of the globe and the DMC constellation will be tasked with gathering emergency pictures as fast as possible.
Recent catastrophes that the satellites covered were the Australian brushfires in February, the Burmese cyclone in May 2008 and, of course, the Asian tsunami of 2004.