Our environment is vulnerable to both natural and man-made disasters. Cross-sector effects of disaster occurrences worsen environmental conditions and deepen human concern. Humans continue to explore more tools and techniques to prevent and manage disaster occurrences in the society. One of such proven tools and techniques is the application of space technology. Space technology can assist in all stages of disaster management, such as monitoring, early warning, prevention, preparedness and recovery.
The study of space weather is one way to get started with the application of space technology in disaster risk reduction. Space weather impacts meteorological occurrences on earth. Hence, the study of space science follows a category of sciences that are essential to sustaining the existence of life on earth.
The knowledge of integration of science into risk and disaster reduction is part of studies in space technology. It equips students with skills such as approaches to disaster risk reduction, nature and distribution of risk and disaster in temporal and spatial scales, quantitative risk assessment, catastrophe modelling, mitigation and early warning systems. The course content usually highlights the roles of the insurance industry in risk and disaster reduction.
Space study correlates with earth and physical sciences to validate scientific findings. Through earth observation and remote sensing technologies, scientists receive real-time data to monitor climate changes and reduce disaster occurrences.
Space-based communication studies equip students with the knowledge of the use of digital communications to transfer data to and from satellites and spacecraft. This includes fundamentals of satellite communications systems, emerging telecoms applications, inter-satellite communications and satellite constellations for scientific, terrestrial, maritime and aeronautical use.
In space instrumentation and application, students learn about design, operation, uses and data processing of satellite and spacecraft. Satellite applications are more specific, whereby navigation satellites are applied in the identification of precise locations, while communication satellites (SATCOM) such as handheld satellite phones are used for data transfer and earth observation satellites provide images covering the area that is stricken by the disaster.
Initiatives have been laid down to help African countries in the mitigation of disasters through space technology. The UN-SPIDER, which is the platform of United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) in charge of space-based information for disaster management and emergency response, is aiming at helping Africa in improving disaster management using space technology. In a meeting at the UN campus in Bonn, Germany on 12th of November 2018, officials of the UN-SPIDER reaffirmed the platform’s commitment to disaster risk reduction through the application of space technology and use of big data approaches in Africa. Following the availability of a big volume of space-based information, disaster management agencies in Africa can successfully launch more proactive approaches in their effort to mitigate risk.
There are various space agencies in Africa, consequently, 30 satellites have been launched by African nations. In essence, cooperation between the space industry and disaster management agencies will be a good idea. Also, this could ensure more employment opportunities for the profession of space-based risk and disaster management. Hence a call for Africans to study the application of space-based technology in disaster management to save Africa from disasters in a more effective and efficient way.