Satel­lites of many coun­tries aiding search

China Daily (Canada) - - CHINA - By ZHAO LEI zhaolei@chi­nadaily.com.cn

China has been given ac­cess to nearly 700 satel­lite im­ages from other coun­tries in the search for Malaysia Air­lines Flight MH370, af­ter in­vok­ing an in­ter­na­tional char­ter agree­ment de­signed to pool space re­sources in time of need, the China Na­tional Space Ad­min­is­tra­tion said.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion called for help un­der the In­ter­na­tional Char­ter on Space and Ma­jor Dis­as­ters on March 11, three days af­ter the flight dis­ap­peared en route from Kuala Lumpur to Bei­jing, and co­or­di­nated satel­lites owned by var­i­ous na­tions, in­clud­ing the United States, France, United King­dom and Ger­many, to ex­am­ine ar­eas where the ill­fated plane could be.

It was the first time the char­ter had been in­voked to co­or­di­nate as­sorted cor­po­rate, na­tional space agency and in­ter­na­tional satel­lite as­sets to search for an air­craft.

Since the call for help, hun­dreds of im­ages taken by for­eign satel­lites have been given to China to sup­port the multi­na­tional search.

China’s re­sort to the char­ter’s mech­a­nisms was re­vealed by the space ad­min­is­tra­tion af­ter an in­ter­na­tional con­fer­ence in Bei­jing last week, deal­ing with fur­ther de­vel­op­ment of the char­ter. Fif­teen sig­na­to­ries in­clud­ing the US Na­tional Oceanic and At­mo­spheric Ad­min­is­tra­tion, In­dian Space Re­search Or­ga­ni­za­tion and Ja­pan Aero­space Ex­plo­ration Agency at­tended.

The char­ter’s web­site in­di­cated that the US Earth ob­ser­va­tion satel­lites Land­sat-8 and Terra, as well as the high­res­o­lu­tion radar satel­lite Ter­raSAR-X, a joint ven­ture of the Ger­man Aero­space Cen­ter and EADS Astrium, took part in the hunt for MH370. China has des­ig­nated 21 satel­lites to search for clues on the where­abouts of MH370, but no solid traces have been de­tected so far. China signed the char­ter in May 2007 and first in­voked the mech­a­nism’s as­sis­tance two months later when a se­ries of dev­as­tat­ing floods rav­aged a large part of China’s cen­tral and east­ern reg ions.

The coun­try has called for as­sis­tance un­der the char­ter 17 times and ob­tained large amounts of satel­lite data to fa­cil­i­tate dis­as­ter re­lief ef­forts, the ad­min­is­tra­tion said.

The last time China re­sorted to the char­ter was in Au­gust when the most dev­as­tat­ing floods in five decades hit north­east­ern China. The Ger­man Aero­space Cen­ter, Cana­dian Space Agency and US Ge­o­log­i­cal Sur­vey de­liv­ered im­ages pro­duced by their satel­lites to China.

For its part, the coun­try has of­fered satel­lite data to help han­dle the for­est fires that af­flicted south­east­ern Aus­tralia in 2009, the floods that rav­aged Pak­istan in 2010 and the earthquake and tsunami dis­as­ters that struck Ja­pan in 2011.

China has also as­signed the high- res­o­lut i on Earth ob­ser­va­tion satel­lite Gaofen-1 and weather satel­lite Fengyun-3C to be on duty for the char­ter to re­place their pre­de­ces­sor, Shi­jian-9A.

“The co­op­er­a­tive mech­a­nism has con­trib­uted a lot to global ef­forts to re­lieve and pre­vent huge losses from nat­u­ral dis­as­ters,” said Wang Ya’nan, deputy edi­tor-inchief of Aero­space Knowl­edge mag­a­zine in Bei­jing. “It can also be of great help in multi­na­tional emer­gency re­sponse, such as the search for MH370.”

The next steps for the char­ter, he said, should be to ex­pand in­ter­na­tional co­op­er­a­tion to more fields and to in­clude more par­ties that have space ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

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