Satellites improve disaster monitoring efficiency in China

Two small Disaster monitoring satellites, launched in 2008, have allowed China to more rapidly monitor natural disasters with greater range, said the National Commission for Disaster Reduction Tuesday. Since the two satellites were put into operation in November 2008, they have provided government agencies with disaster information three to six times faster than previously, said a statement from the commission office. In addition, the monitoring range has been expanded ten times beyond the previous range, the statement said.

The two satellites, the first of their kind launched by China, are equipped with optical, infrared and hyperspectral sensors. Over the past three years, they have been under stable operation, providing data for damage assessments to guide rescue and reconstruction work in more than 70 natural disasters, the statement said. They also monitored the situation of 15 disasters abroad, including the devastating Haiti earthquake in 2010, it said.

Natural disasters left 204 people dead and 25 missing in China in July and inflicted direct economic losses of 43.59 billion yuan (6.82 billion U.S. dollars), according to a government report published earlier last month. Data from the two satellites have been broadly used in agricultural output assessment and fire prevention, the statement said. Small satellites are usually lighter than 1,000 kg, require smaller, cheaper launch vehicles, and can sometimes be launched in multiples.