Thursday, March 06, 2008

Satellite images by TopSat supports Rwandan earthquake disaster relief

Satellite imagery captured by TopSat, the micro-satellite designed and built by a QinetiQ-led consortium of British firms, has been provided free of charge to the United Nations in response to the recent earthquakes on the Rwandan / Congolese border.

The TopSat imagery is supporting disaster relief operations being led by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. According to initial reports, at least 42 people have died in Rwanda’s Western Province and in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) city of Bukavu following a series of earthquakes that struck on 3 February. The earthquakes measured up to 6.0 on the Richter scale destroying buildings, closing schools and leaving thousands of people homeless.

In November 2007 QinetiQ agreed to include TopSat in the International "Space and Major Disasters" Charter, a joint initiative by international space agencies to provide relief agencies with rapid access to satellite data. The United Nations activated the Charter on 6 February and TopSat acquired imagery of the region three days later that has now been supplied to relief agencies.

The DMC, through the UK British National Space Centre (BNSC) and DMC International Imaging (DMCii), is currently the Charter’s lead agency under a rolling chairmanship. David Hodgson, Managing Director of DMCii said: "The UN relies on imagery from satellites such as TopSat to help plan and manage its response to earthquakes and to provide maps of the region for relief workers in the field"

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.

Graham Love, Chief Executive Officer of QinetiQ said: "We are delighted that TopSat is contributing to the UK’s commitment to international relief efforts that are helping to save people’s lives across the globe"

TopSat was launched on 27 October 2005 and was originally funded by BNSC and the UK Ministry of Defence. It orbits the earth at a height of 700km, providing high resolution imaging of the Earth quickly and at low cost.

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