As from 1 November countries where a natural or technological disaster has occurred will be able to enlist emergency support from the space facilities of the European Space Agency (ESA), the Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES, France) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) by simply calling a confidential telephone number.
The number will be notified to authorised users. As soon as a natural disaster occurs, they will be able to call an operator at ESRIN (the ESA establishment in Frascati, Italy), who will immediately contact the duty engineer at ESA, CNES or the CSA.
The engineer will then deploy various space facilities of the three agencies to assist the country where the disaster has struck: earth observation data from SPOT, Radarsat, ERS and soon Envisat, facilities for telemedicine and navigation (e.g. to track drifting buoys marking an oil slick), ground infrastructures and archive pictures. Once launched, the Artemis and Stentor communication satellites will also be available to relay data to the country concerned. Whenever called upon in a crisis, the three agencies will designate a project manager to liaise with the country affected. Assistance will not be confined to supplying satellite data, but will include processing and interpretation as well.
The decision to set up this 24-hour hotline was taken on 25 October, at the second meeting of the Board of the International Charter on Space and Major and Disasters. The Charter was signed on 20 June this year by ESA and CNES, with the CSA subscribing on 20 October. It is a far-reaching initiative to promote cooperation by space system operators in the event of natural or technological disasters. The Charter is open for signature by satellite operators anywhere in the world. All partners undertake to cooperate on a voluntary basis, with no exchange of funds between them.
For further information, please contact:
ESA press service:
Franco Bonacina, tel: +00.3188.8.131.52.55, fax +00.3184.108.40.206.90
CNES press service:
Julien Guillaume, tel: +00.3220.127.116.11.87, fax +00.318.104.22.168.16
CSA press service:
Anna Kapiniari, tel: +1.450.926.4350 - fax +1.450.926.4352