The Charter is an organisation that coordinates space agencies worldwide in gathering vital satellite images of disaster-stricken regions – providing the images to civil protection authorities to inform their response efforts and save lives.
As Chair, DMCii is responsible for ensuring the operational elements of the Charter run smoothly and supporting strategy and policy decisions. It is a particularly exciting time to lead the Charter as the membership is committed to finding ways of widening national access to the Charter’s services.
Speaking ahead of his keynote address at the Charter Board Meeting in London, UK Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts said:
“The Charter is a great example of the enormous benefits space can bring to our everyday lives. It provides invaluable and immediate satellite images during times of crisis, from tracking extreme weather or to dealing with the aftermath of earthquakes and tsunamis, as we saw very recently in Japan.
“During the UK’s chairmanship we’re keen to build on the Charter’s success and open up international access to the world’s satellite resources. This means the Charter will play an even bigger role in helping countries respond effectively to emergencies, and ultimately help save lives.”
Since it was set up in 1999, the Charter has provided images during more than 300 disasters in more than 100 countries – most recently following the earthquake in Japan and the recent severe tornadoes in the southern United States.
Membership of the Charter is open to all space agencies able to contribute satellite images. Uniquely, the UK is a member on a public-private basis that makes optimal use of the available government and commercial expertise. The UK Space Agency holds a seat on the Charter’s Board, providing direction and examining ways to improve Charter performance in future. DMCii coordinates the Disaster Monitoring Constellation (DMC), currently a five-strong international satellite constellation made available as part of the Charter satellite fleet, and implements the day-to-day Charter process as a member of the Charter’s Executive Secretariat.
David Hodgson, DMCii’s member of the Charter’s Executive Secretariat said:
“The Charter is still being run in much the same way as when it began in 2000 with three members. Now, with the German Aerospace Center (DLR) joining last year, membership is up to 14. We need to address the practical implications of this growth to keep the Charter operating in the same efficient and streamlined manner.”
So far this year, the Charter has been activated for the flooding in Australia, Brazil, Mozambique, Namibia and most recently in central Midwest America, as well as hurricane Yasi, earthquakes in Pakistan and New Zealand and Japan, and a volcanic eruption in Argentina.
UK-DMC2 satellite image©  SSTL, all rights reserved, supplied by DMCii