Remotely sensed data acquired by orbital sensor systems has emerged as a vital tool to identify the extent of damage resulting from a natural disaster, as well as providing near-real time mapping support to response efforts on the ground and humanitarian aid efforts. The International Space Station (ISS) is a unique terrestrial remote sensing platform for acquiring disaster response imagery. Unlike automated remote-sensing platforms it has a human crew; is equipped with both internal and externally-mounted remote sensing instruments; and has an inclined, low-Earth orbit that provides variable views and lighting (day and night) over 90 percent of the inhabited surface of the Earth. As such, it provides a useful complement to autonomous sensor systems in higher altitude polar orbits. NASA remote sensing assets on the station began collecting International Charter, Space and Major Disasters, also known informally as the International Disaster Charter (IDC) response data in May 2012. Since the start of IDC response in 2012, and as of late March 2015, there have been 123 IDC activations; NASA sensor systems have collected data for thirty-four of these events. Of the successful data collections, eight involved two or more ISS sensor systems responding to the same event. Data has also been collected by International Partners in response to natural disasters, most notably JAXA and Roscosmos/Energia through the Urugan program.
Stefanov, W. L., & Evans, C. A. (2015). Data collection for disaster response from the International Space Station. In International Archives of the Photogrammetry, Remote Sensing and Spatial Information Sciences - ISPRS Archives (Vol. 40, pp. 851–855). International Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing. https://doi.org/10.5194/isprsarchives-XL-7-W3-851-2015