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China, Russia, India, and pals agree to create virtual satellite constellation

Remote sensing data to be shared among BRICS bloc, so they can all watch the world from above

The space agencies of the BRICS bloc – Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa – have agreed to share some satellite sensing data.

The BRICS bloc have a loose economic and diplomatic collaboration, framed around a desire to create a grouping big enough to represent a counterweight to other more established alliances and give emerging economies a collective voice in global affairs. One example of that ambition was the 2020 attempt to define e-commerce consumer protection standards to operate within the bloc, in the hope that work would influence other nations and even the UN to consider similar regulations.

Membership of the bloc doesn't guarantee harmonious relations, as demonstrated by recent ructions between India and China. But when the bloc sees a chance to benefit all members, it seldom hesitates.

Hence this new pact to share some remote sensing data gathered from satellites operated by members' space agencies.

The brief announcement of the arrangement mentions the creation of "a virtual constellation of specified remote sensing satellites of BRICS space agencies and their respective ground stations will receive the data".

By working together, BRICS members hope to address "challenges faced by mankind, such as global climate change, major disasters and environmental protection".

Of the BRICS members, only South Africa lacks its own sensing satellites.

No details have been offered on just what data will flow between nations, or when it will flow. The Register imagines that all parties recognise that Earth observation data has strategic applications and that they'll need to be careful not to volunteer information that could have uses beyond the stated purpose of helping bloc members to manage disasters and the environment.

The deal was announced a week after India's attempt to enhance its Earth observation capabilities took a hit when the launch of a new satellite failed. The nation's space agency, ISRO, has offered no additional information beyond its initial assessment of an anomaly in cryogenic systems. ®

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