TopSat satellite imagery to support disaster relief operations

07 Nov 2007

Click here for TopSat image of Kalamata, Greece shows "blue" burn scars following this summer's forest fires.

Satellite images captured by TopSat, the micro-satellite designed and built by a QinetiQ-led consortium of British firms, are to be provided free of charge to relief agencies responding to disasters anywhere in world.

QinetiQ and the other consortium members have agreed to include TopSat in the International Charter: "Space and Major Disasters," a joint initiative by global space agencies such as the European Space Agency, to provide responding authorities with rapid access to a wide range of satellite data. The charter was established in 2000 and has since been activated over 140 times.

Satellite images can be of immense value to relief agencies in the identification and management of both man-made and natural disasters. TopSat has already played a vital role in revealing the full extent of the destruction caused by landslides in North Korea in 2006 which are estimated to have taken more than 10,000 lives. A new TopSat image released today also shows the aftermath of this summer's forest fires in Greece.

The UK, through the British National Space Centre (BNSC) and DMCii Ltd, took over as the Charter's lead agency in October 2007 and will chair the group until April 2008.

Commenting on TopSat's inclusion in the Charter, the Science and Innovation Minister Ian Pearson said: "TopSat is a UK success story built on a partnership between the Government and four leading British companies. This cutting-edge work is the culmination of a uniquely British project and it shows how the UK is at the forefront of innovative technologies and their applications. TopSat will now be an important part of the UK's commitment to international relief efforts that help save people's lives across the globe."

TopSat was originally funded by BNSC and the UK Ministry of Defence as a technology demonstrator with a nominal one year mission life. It was launched on 27 October 2005 and has been orbiting the earth for two years at a height of 700km, providing high resolution imaging of the Earth quickly and at low cost.

Graham Love, QinetiQ CEO said: "TopSat is specifically designed for applications where speed of response is vital and we welcome the opportunity to collaborate in this valuable international initiative."

The UK consortium behind TopSat was formed and is led by QinetiQ, which owns the satellite and is responsible for day-to-day operations. It also includes STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory which designed and built the camera, Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) which built the spacecraft bus and Infoterra which is responsible for data exploitation.

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TopSat satellite imagery to support disaster relief operations