The International Charter "Space and Major Disasters" is a non-binding charter which provides for the charitable and humanitarian acquisition and transmission of satellite data to relief organizations in the event of major disasters. Initiated by the European Space Agency and the French space agency CNES after the UNISPACE III conference held in Vienna, Austria, in July 1999, it officially came into operation on November 1, 2000, after the Canadian Space Agency signed onto the charter on October 20, 2000. Their space assets were then, respectively, ERS and ENVISAT, SPOT and Formosat, and RADARSAT.
The assorted satellite assets of various corporate, national, and international space agencies and entities provide for humanitarian coverage which is wide albeit contingent. First activated for landslide in Slovenia in November 2000, the Charter has since brought space assets into play for numerous floods, earthquakes, oil spills, forest fires, tsunamis, major snowfalls, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes and landslides, and furthermore (and unusually) for the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 and for the 2014 West Africa Ebola outbreak. As of 2015, fifteen space agencies are signatories; dozens of satellites are available with image resolutions ranging from 8 kilometres (5 mi) per pixel to about 0.3 metres (1 ft) per pixel. As of August 2018, it had had 579 activations, from 125 countries, and had 17 members, which contributed 34 satellites. It won the prestigious Pecora award in 2017.
As of 2012 the live satellites and their instrumentalities were: The high resolution and very high resolution radar sensors of ENVISAT (decommissioned in April), RISAT-1, RADARSAT-1 & 2, TerraSAR-X and TanDEM-X; the high resolution and very high resolution optical sensors of SPOT satellites4 & 5, Pleiades, Landsat 5 & 7, PROBA1, UK-DMC 2, KOMPSAT-2, IRS-P5, Resourcesat-2, Oceansat-2, Cartosat-2, IMS-1, and RapidEye; the medium and low resolution optical sensors of POES, GOES, and SAC-C. Furthermore, specific agreements with other entities, including corporations, allow the Charter access to additional products of high and very high resolution from satellites such as the Formosat series, GeoEye, IKONOS, QuickBird, and WorldView.
In 2014 the charter was activated 41 times for disasters in 30 countries. In that year the live satellites and their instrumentalities included: The high and very high resolution radar sensors of Risat-1, RADARSAT-2, TerraSAR-X, and TanDEM-X and Sentinel-1A; the optical high and very high resolution sensors of UK-DMC 2, Landsat 7 and 8, SPOT series 5, 6, and 7, Pléiades 1A and 1B, PROBA 1, SJ-9A, GF-1, KOMPSAT-2, IRS-P5 (Cartosat-1), Cartosat-2, Resourcesat-2, Oceansat-2, RapidEye, Kanopus-V, and Resurs-P, and the HDTV camera mounted the Kibo module of the International Space Station; and the medium and low optical sensors of POES, GOES, FY-3C, the Metop series, the first two Meteosat generations, and Meteor-M. Specific agreements with other entities allow for the usage of the Formosat, GeoEye, IKONOS, QuickBird, and WorldViews satellites, which have high and very high resolution. Archival data from defunct satellites such as ALOS, ENVISAT, ERS, CBERS, IRS-1C, Astra 1D, IRS P4, P6, IMS-1, RADARSAT-1, SAC-C, SPOT 1-3 & 4, UK-DMC, Landsat-5 and NigeriaSat are also available.
This is very much a partial list; the 500th activation of the Charter was on 1 August 2016.