International Charter

The International Charter "Space and Major Disasters" is an association of space agencies and satellite operators with the aim of providing a consistent system for the rapid acquisition and delivery of satellite data in the event of a disaster.

The members of the Charter enable the free availability of satellite data for authorized users in the event of a disaster, such as aid and civil protection organizations or defence and security organizations, to support relief efforts in the event of major natural disasters and technical accidents. The Charter data is evaluated either by the users themselves or by rapid mapping organizations such as the Copernicus Emergency Management Service or the ZKI. The results are made available to authorized users, inquiring authorities, but also to the public as map products.

The International Charter "Space and Major Disasters" was initiated in 1999 by the European and French space agencies (ESA and CNES) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) joined in 2000. The consortium has since grown to 17 partners spread across the globe, providing data from a virtual constellation of more than 200 satellite missions. The active missions include, for example, the optical satellites Pléiades, GEOSAT-2, KOMPSAT-3, PlanetScope, Landsat-8/9 and the radar satellites Sentinel-1, RCM, ICEYE, SAOCOM-1, ALOS-2/PALSAR-2.

ZKI map of a flood event during a charter activation in India
Mapping of the flood extent in Assam (India) in July 2020 based on TerraSAR-X satellite data.



DLR officially joined the charter in October 2010 and provides operational data from the TerraSAR-X radar satellite mission, which consists of the two identical TerraSAR-X and TanDEM-X satellites.

The tasks of the DLR are divided into two areas:

  1. The provision of DLR's technical and operational contribution to the Charter.
    This includes the delivery of TerraSAR-X/TanDEM-X data, project management for Charter activations and the Emergency On-Call Officer function. This area of responsibility is financially supported by the BMWK.
  2. The creation of maps based on Charter data.
    This area is not part of the tasks contractually defined by the Charter and is therefore usually provided via other mechanisms, such as research projects. If the DLR/ZKI carries out evaluations, the resulting map products are made available on the ZKI website.
Formation flight of the radar satellites TerraSAR-X and TanDEM-X

DLR (CC-BY 3.0).