Space assets and technologies for bushfire management

Zoe Silverstone, Dharshun Sridharan, Samantha Page, Nipuni Silva, Travis Holland, Toby Rady, Kaja Antlej, Sami Raines, Andy McGarry

Research output: Book chapter/Published conference paperConference paperpeer-review


The 2019-20 East Australian bushfires demonstrated the financial, emotional and ecological impacts of bushfires. This paper presents the findings from a cross-disciplinary investigation into the potential use for space assets and technologies in the effective prediction and mitigation of bushfires and communicating risks and impacts to communities. For the purposes of this report, the Australian case study is primary, but the recommendations hold broad international applicability.
Three geophysical components determine bushfire behavior — fuel, topography and weather. Earth Observation data of each component is essential for accurate bushfire prediction. Satellites provide volumes of data informing weather and climate prediction models to improve forecast lead times. Satellite sensors can detect land cover, weather, fuel load and fuel moisture content. Most fires start by lightning strikes (82%) which can be predicted using satellite infrared imagery to determine cloud top temperatures. Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) shows topography. Adequate communication of this information to authorities and communities is vital.
Effective use of prediction models can allow targeted hazard reduction methodologies. However, a major limitation is the storage capacity and computational power required for data-storage and high-resolution modeling. Firefighter safety could be improved by use of protective clothing modeled on astronaut space suits and reinforcing fire trucks with thermal protective materials used on spacecraft. An interoperable national communications infrastructure is needed to enable rapid sharing of information and resources with emergency responders and citizens across jurisdictions. Direct satellite-to-mobile phone emergency communication systems ensure a suitable failsafe if ground-based infrastructure is damaged.
Space assets and technologies hold great potential for an innovative and coordinated response to the challenges presented by bushfires.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationIAC 2021 Congress Proceedings, 72nd International Astronautical Congress (IAC), Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2021
Event72nd International Astronautical Congress - Dubai World Trade Centre, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Duration: 25 Oct 202129 Oct 2021
Conference number: 72 (Conference website) (Conference proceedings)


Conference72nd International Astronautical Congress
Abbreviated titleInspire, Innovate and Discover for the Benefit of Humankind
Country/TerritoryUnited Arab Emirates
OtherFor the very first time, the IAC will open its doors to the global space community in the United Arab Emirates, the first Arab country to host the IAC since its establishment in 1950. The United Arab Emirates’ interest in astronomy and space sciences dates back to the 1970’s, when His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan met with the NASA team responsible for the Apollo moon landing. This encounter sparked a national focus on space that began almost three decades ago, eventually leading to the birth of a national space sector. The IAC 2021 Host Organization – the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Center (MBRSC) – member of the IAF since 2012, was established by the Dubai Government to serve as one of the main pillars to drive the establishment of the knowledge economy and sustainable development in the UAE.
With the theme “Inspire, Innovate & Discover for the Benefit of Humankind”, the IAC 2021 looks forward to making a contribution to humanity and to science by strengthening and enhancing cooperation between all countries in the space sector.
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