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N° 5–2001: Earth monitoring satellites support rescue efforts in El Salvador

17 January 2001

Responding quickly to support rescue efforts converging on El Salvador, member space agencies of the International Charter on Space and Major Disasters have dispatched their Earth observation satellites to capture images of the devastation caused by last Saturday's earthquake.

To help the international rescue teams that have rushed to El Salvador, the International Charter on Space and Major Disasters was activated in response to a request received through French Civil Protection Agency on 15 January. The satellites of the rescue constellation have been retasked in emergency mode: these are the European Space Agency's ERS-2 radar satellite, the Canadian Space Agency's Radarsat-1 satellite and the French space agency's (*) optical SPOT series.

The combination of these satellite resources provides emergency rescue organisations with imagery that is captured day and night and in all weather conditions. Up-to-date maps and information obtained from archived and newly acquired images are being be forwarded to the rescue authorities as soon as they are available. Positioning, operation and image capture are being coordinated by the International Charter partners.

The International Charter on Space and Major Disasters is the expression of a collective resolve to put space technology at the service of rescue authorities in the event of a major disaster. Its current signatories are the European Space Agency (ESA), the French space agency (CNES) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). The Charter is open for signature by space agencies and satellite operators anywhere in the world. All partners undertake to cooperate on a voluntary basis, with no exchange of funds between them.

The International Charter was set up in the framework of the UNISPACE III Conference of the United Nations in 1999 and has been in force since 1 November 2000. In a first operation, assistance was provided to rescue organisations following a major landslide in Slovenia on 17 November 2000.

Note for Editors:

About ESA

To monitor and understand both man-made and natural changes to our atmosphere, land and oceans in every part of the world, satellites orbiting the Earth are the best solution, as they gather comprehensive information. ESA developed and launched two Earth monitoring satellites, ERS-1 (in 1991) and ERS-2 (in 1995), carrying purpose-built instruments including the Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR), a high-resolution imaging radar producing high quality colour images of land regions, oceans, coastal zones and polar ice, day and night irrespective of weather conditions and cloud cover.

ERS-2 circles the Earth at a height of 800 km and completes an orbit every 100 minutes, crossing both poles and covering the entire globe in just three days. ERS-2 will be followed this year by the new-generation environmental satellite, Envisat, to be put into orbit in July by an Ariane 5 launcher.

The European Space Agency is an international organisation established in 1975 to provide for and to promote, for exclusively peaceful purposes, cooperation among European states in space research and technology and their space applications. ESA has 15 Member States: Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Canada takes part in some projects under a cooperation agreement.

ESA is responsible for drawing up and carrying out the European space plan. Its activities span the fields of space science, Earth observation, telecommunications, satellite navigation, human spaceflight, microgravity research, space transportation systems and technology development. Ariane (launchers), Meteosat (meteorology), ERS (Earth observation), the International Space Station (human spaceflight) Galileo (satellite navigation) and Rosetta (cometary science) are a few examples of the many programmes for which ESA is entirely or substantially responsible.

ESA has its headquarters in Paris, France, and establishments in the Netherlands, Germany and Italy, a launch base in Kourou, French Guiana, and offices in Washington, Moscow and Brussels.

About the French space agency (CNES - Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales)

(*) The SPOT satellites are developed and built jointly by France under CNES responsibility, Belgium and Sweden. Spot Image is responsible for marketing SPOT images worldwide.

As a national space agency, CNES is in charge of conceiving, directing and implementing French space policy. It is actively engaged in developing the use of space to meet the civil and military needs of public authorities and satisfy the requirements of the scientific community, and fostering the development and dissemination of new applications designed to create wealth and employment. CNES also drives space science policy, particularly in the field of Earth sciences.

About the Canadian Space Agency

Established in 1989 and situated in Saint-Hubert, Quebec, the Canadian Space Agency coordinates all aspects of the Canadian Space Programme. Through its Space Knowledge, Applications and Industry Development business line, the CSA delivers services involving: Earth and the Environment; Space Science; Human presence in Space; Satellite Communications; Generic Space Technologies; Space Qualification Services and Awareness. The Canadian Space Agency is at the forefront of the development and application of space knowledge for the benefit of Canadians and humanity.

Contact points:

Jerome Béquignon
Tel.: + 39 06 94180656
Fax: + 39 06 94180552

Simonetta Cheli
Tel.: + 39 06 94180350
Fax: + 39 06 94180302

Sandra Laly
Press Officer
Tel + 33 1 44 76 77 32

Canadian Space Agency
Caroline Lavallée
Communications Advisor
Tel + 1 450 926 4370

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