Wednesday, February 20, 2008

TerraSAR-X radar satellite supports UN Emergency Response

Only 48 hours after UNOSAT, a United Nations operational programme of UNITAR that provides an enhanced access to satellite imagery, contacted Infoterra GmbH's teams in Friedrichshafen, the company's experts were able to deliver a readily processed high-resolution radar image acquired by the new German radar satellite TerraSAR-X.

Heavy rainfall had caused severe flooding in Bolivia, already killing more than 60 and leaving over 40.000 people homeless by February 13th, 2008. In the worst-hit province, Beni, thousands of people had to leave their homes amid rising floodwaters; rivers had broken their banks, and floodwaters were threatening to breach a raised road surrounding the provincial capital Trinidad, home to some 90,000 people.

Fearing the worst for the local population and rushing to prepare an effective emergency response, UNOSAT's Rapid Mapping, Applications and User Relations Unit, considering TerraSAR-X "the only radar satellite capable of properly detecting floods inside an urban setting like Trinidad", asked Infoterra to assess the possibilities of acquiring high-resolution radar imagery of the area.

A rapid tasking of the satellite led to an image acquisition February 14th; on the same day, the image was downloaded to the ground station and entered into the processing procedures with a high priority. On February 15th, a mere 48 hours after the initial inquiry, the image was delivered to the UNOSAT experts, who expressed a great satisfaction not only with the rapid response and delivery, but the impressive quality of the data as well.

Less than another 24 hours later, UNOSAT made a preliminary flood water analysis at scale 1:20.000 publicly available through its website: a valuable source of information not only to UN institutions, but to any other organization preparing emergency relief actions in the area – whether national or international, governmental or non-governmental.

According to UNOSAT, the map clearly depicts the flood waters over the affected urban extent of Trinidad. The flood water analysis was conducted with a single TerraSAR-X radar scene recorded on February 14th, enhanced by previously acquired RADARSAT-1 satellite data (8 February 2008, 5 April 2001). Reference:

"The rapid system response time and the supreme reliability thanks to its weather-independence make TerraSAR-X an extremely valuable data source in such time-critical situations," explains Joerg Herrmann, Managing Director of Infoterra GmbH. " The TerraSAR-X high priority acquisition was delivered to UNOSAT free of charge: we are of course more than happy to apply the system's benefits when it comes to supporting humanitarian relief activities and thus – at least indirectly – to reducing human suffering."

About Infoterra GmbH
Infoterra GmbH, Germany, holds the exclusive commercial exploitation rights for the new German radar satellite TerraSAR-X, successfully launched on June 15th, 2007 – enabling the company to provide weather-independent, high-resolution, new-quality radar data as well as reliable data access services.

A variety of geo-information products and services complete the portfolio: based on radar data as well as data acquired by other spaceborne sensors, Infoterra provides reliable and timely knowledge to customers operating in versatile fields of application around the globe.

Infoterra GmbH has been a leader in development and validation of GMES services for several years, having established a strong expertise in geo-information services for land monitoring, water quality assessment, flood risk management, and spatial planning applications.

The company is headquartered in Friedrichshafen and operates a production centre in Potsdam, currently employing an overall workforce of more than 120 employees.

Infoterra GmbH is part of the Infoterra Group, which also comprises companies in France, Spain the United Kingdom and Hungary, and a wholly owned subsidiary of Astrium, Europe's leading space specialist.

About TerraSAR-X
The TerraSAR-X Earth observation satellite is a joint venture being carried out under a public-private-partnership between the DLR and Astrium GmbH (Friedrichshafen). At the DLR, a team of four institutes is responsible for implementing the mission in collaboration with the space agency. Astrium GmbH developed, built and launched the satellite; the exclusive commercial exploitation rights are held by the geo-information service provider Infoterra GmbH.

Mareike Doepke
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