Canadian Officials Get Flood Imaging Help From New Space Station Camera
July 4, 2013

Canadian Officials Get Flood Imaging Help From New Space Station Camera

Lee Rannals for - Your Universe Online

A new camera aboard the International Space Station (ISS) known as the ISS SERVIR Environmental Research and Visualization System (ISERV) is helping officials working in the flooded regions of downtown Calgary in Alberta, Canada.

NASA's ISERV camera snapped 24 images of the flooded area, and the team sent out the photos to Canadian officials to help with response and assessment. This camera system is based on a modified commercial telescope and driven by custom software. It uses its downward viewpoint to obtain near real-time images and transmits the data within hours back to Earth.

"I'm happy that this NASA camera can help the space station lend support to countries around the world, making the station even more of an international asset," said Dan Irwin, project director of NASA's SERVIR project. "ISERV is proving itself as a testbed that will inform the development of future operational systems."

Flooding in Calgary began on June 20, causing more than 100,000 residents to evacuate the city and nearby towns.

"My heart goes out to my fellow Canadians affected by the disaster," said Canadian Space Agency astronaut Chris Hadfield, who returned from the International Space Station in May after a six-month mission. "I am also proud that we are using the unique view from the space station with ISERV to help make response efforts more effective. The space station has a global reach in its ability to help those in need and make lives better here on Earth."

Hadfield helped to install ISERV in the Earth-facing window of the orbiting laboratory's Destiny module. Nearly 95 percent of the planet's populated area is visible during the station's orbit, so the window is the perfect spot to take photos with the high-resolution camera. NASA said ISERV images are helping decision makers address environmental issues, humanitarian crises and disasters.

"The [space] station imagery captured over Calgary is a great example of the importance of high-resolution optical images for flood mapping in urban environments, weather permitting," said Alice Deschamps, alternate lead for the Emergency Geomatics Service (EGS), Earth Observation and Geosolutions Division, Canada Centre for Remote Sensing. "It is a complementary source of information to the large area Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR)-based flood mapping products generated by EGS. Our team will use the photos for validation purposes as we move forward with improving our SAR flood mapping algorithms."

ISERV is the first of a series of space station Earth-observing instruments, each to feature progressively more capable sensors. Future sensors will be mounted on the station for a clearer, wider view of Earth.


Image Below: A 'before and after' shot of Calgary in Alberta, Canada. Left Image is from a Google Earth shot before flooding. Right Image is of flooding in Calgary taken with SERVIR camera on the International Space Station. Credit: NASA/ISERV