China Leases High-Res Satellites From British Firm

DMCii PR — UK-based satellite imagery provider DMC International Imaging Ltd (DMCii) signed a £110m [$177 million] deal with Beijing-based company 21AT, to provide access to high-resolution satellite imagery for its customers during the Chinese premier’s UK visit. 21AT will lease capacity from three new satellites that are to be launched into a new Earth Observation constellation “DMC3” which will be owned and operated by DMCii.

Twenty First Century Aerospace Technology Company Ltd. (21AT) is the first customer to adopt DMCii’s innovative new satellite services model. Traditionally, a satellite imagery provider would purchase and operate their own satellites, however in this case 21AT will lease from DMCii 100% of the imaging capacity of the three high resolution satellites under a seven-year contract and SSTL will design the satellite constellation to meet the Earth Observation requirements of 21AT. In return 21AT will receive timely, high resolution (1 metre GSD) satellite imagery with planning and tasking but without the complexity associated with procuring and operating a satellite constellation.

The three satellites will be built and launched for DMCii by UK small satellite pioneer Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) and are scheduled to be ready for launch in 2014. 21AT is no stranger to SSTL, having built its business in selling imagery from its very successful small satellite mission Beijing-1 which was manufactured by SSTL and launched in 2005. By leasing capacity from the three new satellites in the DMC3 constellation, 21AT will meet growing demand for high-resolution image data and value-added Earth Observation (EO) geo-information services from its established user community. It is anticipated that more satellites will be added to the constellation as additional capacity is required for DMCii’s international customer base and other early adopters of this unique service model.

Beijing-1 has been used extensively by 21AT to provide EO information services over the last 5 years, primarily to the Chinese government, for applications such as monitoring land and water resources, agriculture, urban development, desertification, earthquake and snow disasters, pollution, and environmental impact assessment. Most notably, its images played a vital role in assessing remote and inaccessible areas during the Wenchuan earthquake, and in planning infrastructure for the Beijing Olympics. Beijing-1 is still operating in orbit, surpassing its 5-year design lifetime on 27 October 2010. The satellite is expected to continue operating for 21AT until DMCii fulfils capacity needs through the new constellation.

The 1m panchromatic and 4m multi-spectral imagery from the DMC3 satellites will provide 21AT’s customers with greatly enhanced data continuity from Beijing-1, and by leasing capacity from three satellites, the Company will have the power of the new constellation at its disposal – providing both increased resolution with rapid imaging and revisit.

Applications for the imaging service include monitoring China’s land use and land cover changes, and enabling regional governments to plan and monitor the phenomenal rate of urban development in China’s cities. With access to the constellation imaging capacity, 21AT will also be able to provide more rapid imaging of the affected area in the event of a disaster because the time between satellite passes over an area is dramatically reduced. More frequent passes also means that maps used during disaster relief operations can also be updated more regularly at critical times.

About DMC International Imaging Ltd.

DMC International Imaging Ltd (DMCii) is a UK based supplier of remote sensing data products and services for international Earth Observation (EO) markets. DMCii supplies programmed and archived optical satellite imagery provided by the multi-satellite Disaster Monitoring Constellation. DMCii’s data is used in a wide variety of commercial and government applications including agriculture, forestry and environmental mapping.

In partnership with the UK Space Agency and the other Disaster Monitoring Constellation member nations (Algeria, China, Nigeria, Turkey and Spain), DMCii works with the International Charter ‘Space and Major Disasters’ to provide free satellite imagery for humanitarian use in the event of major international disasters such as floods, fires, tsunamis, and hurricanes.

DMCii was formed in October 2004 and is a subsidiary of Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL), the world leader in small satellite technology. SSTL designed and built the Disaster Monitoring Constellation with the support of the then British National Space Centre and in conjunction with the other Disaster Monitoring Constellation member nations listed above.