Disaster Monitoring Constellation (DMC)

Responding to disasters

  • Ongoing operations
  • Constellation of five satellites
  • First launch in 2002
  • New satellites under construction
The Disaster Monitoring Constellation (DMC) is a network of four satellites designed to provide detailed images of any part of the world in times of need. The data is used to produce maps and information to assist relief efforts and ultimately to save lives.

The four satellites have been built in the UK by Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL). They are owned by the UK (UK-DMC), Algeria (AlSAT-1), Nigeria (NigeriaSat-1) and China (Beijing-1). The UK satellite is supported by BNSC.

The satellites have been placed in a constellation that allows daily imaging of any given point on the globe. For most of the time the satellites are deployed by their owner nations to monitor such things as land use, water supply or agriculture. However, the DMC operates within the International Charter: Space and Major Disasters. So, when disaster strikes, the charter can be activated by the UN or national agencies to pull together information from a whole range of satellites.

The international response for the group of DMC satellites is co-ordinated by SSTL subsidiary company, DMC International Imaging (DMCii). DMCii combines satellite images with other sources of information to produce maps to support relief teams on the ground or at sea.

Since becoming a member of the International Charter at the end of 2005, the DMC has been used to provide images for dozens of situations including:

  • The floods affecting northern and south west England (2007)
  • Iran, Kashmir and Columbia following earthquakes (2004-2007)
  • New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina (2005)
  • Boats trapped in Canadian ice floes (2007)

Mission facts

  • Satellites have a relatively limited lifespan and SSTL is currently working on the next generation of DMC spacecraft. The Spanish Deimos-1 satellite is nearing completion and is due for launch in 2008.

  • Work is also underway on UK-DMC2, also for launch in 2008, and NigeriaSat-2 with a further Nigerian satellite to be built as part of a training programme for the West African country’s future space scientists and engineers. The Nigerian satellites are scheduled for launch in 2009.

  • Each of the new DMC satellites will have improved cameras, enhanced memory capacity and faster communications. Rather than simply taking ‘snapshots’ of the ground, they will also be able to take continuous images over thousands of kilometres. The new technology should enable images and maps to be delivered more rapidly to rescue workers on the ground.


The DMC satellites were designed and built to a standard design at relatively low cost (much cheaper than conventional Earth Observation satellites).

The satellites are typically the size of a domestic washing machine and carry a 32 m resolution imaging system that is able to capture an area of 600 m2. This means that they can highlight useful details over a very large area. The Beijing-1 satellite has an additional 4 m resolution panchromatic camera to provide even greater detail.

UK involvement

The satellites were designed by SSTL and built and commissioned with the active involvement of the countries that now own and operate them.

The UK-DMC contract was awarded to SSTL in 2000 by BNSC using a grant from the Microsatellite Applications in Collaboration programme (MOSAIC).

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