China has mobilized at least eight of its satellites to help with search-and-rescue and damage control work after last week's massive blasts in Tianjin.[Special coverage]
The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp activated its emergency response mechanism on the morning of Aug 13, several hours after the deadly warehouse explosions rocked the port city.
It used the Gaofen 2 high-resolution Earth observation satellite, the Ziyuan 3 Earth mapping satellite and Shijian 9A technology test satellite to perform four observation operations between last Friday and Monday this week, according to a statement on the company's website.
The response mechanism was activated by the company's China Center for Resources Satellite Data and Application.
The center also used the Huanjing 1A low-resolution Earth observation satellite, the CBERS 4 remote sensing satellite and the Gaofen 1 high-resolution Earth observation satellite to acquire data from the scene of the blasts.
Images and data from the satellites have been sent to government departments, including the Ministry of Environmental Protection and the State Oceanic Administration, to help with damage assessment and rescue work, the statement said.
The National Satellite Meteorological Center also deployed weather satellites developed by the Shanghai Academy of Space Flight Technology.
These included the Fengyun 2G and Fengyun 3B satellites to detect fires in the blast zone, the statement said.
A space expert, who declined to be named, said satellites, especially those with high-resolution observation capability, have been used for disaster relief and damage control work because they can produce clear images from a large area.
"Earth observation satellites have many types of imaging devices, so compared with other observation platforms they are more resistant to bad weather and can obtain high-definition pictures through smoke caused by the blasts," he said.
Asked why authorities had not released satellite images from the blast area immediately, the expert said assessing images requires careful visual checks that usually take a lot of time.