Germany: The German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) has become a member of the International Charter ‘Space and Major Disasters’. At an event in Paris to celebrate the tenth anniversary of its founding, Johann-Dietrich Wörner, Chairman of the DLR Executive Board, signed the charter, marking DLR’s accession. With this signing, DLR has become the 11th space agency to pledge its expertise and resources, particularly those associated with global monitoring, to address natural disasters and major accidents.
“In the 10 years since it came into being, the charter has convincingly demonstrated just how valuable space-based Earth observation can be, when natural disasters occur. These activities have saved human lives and mitigated suffering,” said Prof. Wörner, praising the services provided under the charter. With its TerraSAR-X synthetic aperture radar satellite, Germany has a highly capable Earth observation system, which is able to provide valuable mapping data during natural disasters and accidents. “We are convinced that TerraSAR-X will make an important contribution towards the aims and objectives of the charter,” said Prof. Wörner, addressing representatives of other signatories to the charter.
In the first instance, the core contribution DLR can make is through the radar imaging data provided by its TerraSAR-X satellite. “TerraSAR-X supplies detailed images very rapidly and is able to acquire those radar images irrespective of cloud cover or time of day. It is therefore very useful for incidents such as severe flooding,” explained Stefan Voigt, Coordinator of the DLR Center for Satellite Based Crisis Information (Zentrum für Satellitengestützte Kriseninformation; ZKI).
DLR has already played an active role in the charter prior to accession. TerraSAR-X data has repeatedly been requested and duly provided to numerous charter projects since its launch in June 2007. Scientists at ZKI have produced a wide range of mapping products for charter activities and, in several instances, have also coordinated charter operations.
The charter is an international treaty between space agencies and satellite operators. The signatories to the charter are committed to supporting crisis management work in response to disasters by making their space-based infrastructure available to the parties involved. Participation is voluntary and is based on the principle that all members will incorporate their systems to the best of their abilities within the mechanism of the charter. At present, the charter has 10 full members, including the European Space Agency, ESA, the French space agency, CNES, the Canadian Space Agency, CSA, the Indian Space Research Organisation, ISRO, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, JAXA, and two American organisations, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, and the United States Geological Survey, USGS.