UK and Australian teams collaborate to prevent natural disasters in the Pacific

Stephen Kuper

Pacific island countries vulnerable to climate change will benefit from space technology to help them plan for and prevent natural disasters, thanks to a new UK and Australian partnership including the UK Space Agency and the CSIRO.

UK and Australian teams collaborate to prevent natural disasters in the Pacific
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The UK Space Agency is looking for project ideas, to be delivered through UK aid, that use the data collected by satellites to improve decision-making for disaster risk reduction, ocean monitoring, mangrove mapping and maritime management.

This will also see Australia's national science agency, CSIRO, work with the UK Space Agency and invite UK organisations and other international partners to work with them to scope projects designed to deliver sustainable benefits to small island developing states in the Pacific.

The work will build on those systems already under way to help prevent and plan for disasters that are a consequence of rising sea levels and climate change.

This follows a recent statement of intent between the UK Space Agency and Australian Space Agency to establish a 'Space Bridge' to increase strategic collaboration and lay the foundations for swift negotiations for space-related opportunities under any potential future trading arrangements.

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UK Science Minister Chris Skidmore welcomed the announcement, saying, "Increasing our investment in space technology demonstrates our determination to become a global science superpower, forming new collaborations with countries across the globe.

"We were the first major country to sign our commitment to net zero carbon emissions by 2050 into law, and next year the UK will be hosting the UN's climate conference, COP26. Space has a crucial and expanding role as a green technology, providing vital data on Earth observation and climate conditions, which helps to predict the impact of climate change."

One UK space company already having an impact is Surrey Satellite Technology Limited, which launched its NovaSAR-1 satellite last year, part-funded by the UK Space Agency.

The satellite uses synthetic aperture radar (SAR) to provide images day and night and see through cloud cover, making it particularly valuable for Pacific small island states which are frequently covered by clouds.

CSIRO chief executive Dr Larry Marshall said, "Building on CSIRO's 75-year history in space, through this project we are aiming to use cutting-edge Earth observation technology to co-design projects with our Pacific island neighbours focused on managing threats like natural disasters."

The UK and Australia will build on this existing collaboration and improve access to services based on radar satellite data for countries in the Pacific region that need them most.

"As Australia's national science agency, CSIRO's purpose is to solve the greatest challenges using innovative science and technology, like addressing the impacts of a changing climate," Dr Marshall added. 

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