Satellite imagery, tsunami and Fukushima

One year after the earthquake and tsunami that rocked Japan’s eastern seaboard, the Pléiades satellite operated by Astrium Services is acquiring very-high-resolution imagery of the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

Pléiades tracking site clearance

Acquired almost one year after the accident, this Pléiades image of 18 January 2012 shows work underway on a site now hostile to humans. The roof of reactor building N°1 ripped off in the blast is covered by a white structure. The roof of reactor building n°2 was not damaged. Work is continuing to clear reactor containment buildings n°3 and n°4 with the aid of red cranes. The metal-grid roof structures in both buildings are visible, ripped apart by the explosion in building n°3 and burnt by the fire in n°4.
As soon as news was received of the earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Japan on 11 March 2011, the full constellation of satellites operated by Astrium Services swung into action to support emergency response efforts across the disaster area.

SPOT 5 urgent tasking

On 12 and 13 March, the SPOT 5 satellite imaged the 400 km of coastline hit by the earthquake and tsunami.
The images covering the city of Sendai and three nuclear power plants were made available to the international scientific community.

Sendai, a city laid waste, and Go Monitor

The city of Sendai (pop. 1 million), laid waste by the earthquake and tsunami, was tracked every day by the Go Monitor satellite monitoring service for a full week.

Astrium’s domain experts analysed 2-metre imagery from the FORMOSAT-2 satellite and posted free daily reports for the user community at

TerraSAR-X for inventorying and geophysical assessments

The TerraSAR-X radar satellite has also been mobilized by the International Charter and is regularly sending data to receiving stations in Europe and Japan where PASCO, our Japanese partner, is using them to assess damage and keep track of the situation.

TerraSAR-X will also continue to acquire data for the next three months in Stripmap mode (3-m resolution) of the region around Sendai. These data are suited to post-tremor geophysical assessment work and will be made available to the scientific community.

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Satellite imagery, tsunami and Fukushima