Satellites have played a crucial role in solving the flight MH370 mystery

Flight MH370: satellite images reveal field of debris

More than 100 objects possibly related to the MH370 disappearance were spotted in the southern Indian Ocean on images acquired by Airbus-operated satellites.

The information was revealed by Malaysia’s defence minister Hishammuddin Hussein.

The images, captured on Sunday, 23 March, are already a fourth set of satellite imagery showing suspicious objects floating in the waters of the southern Indian Ocean.

According to Hussein, the objects were between one and 23 metres in size.

Airbus said earlier it had directed five of its Earth-observation remote sensing satellites with orbits above the area of concern to help track down the missing aircraft.

The day after the aircraft’s so far mysterious disappearance, the very high resolution Pléaides 1A and 1B satellites, the high resolution SPOT 5 and 6 satellites and the synthetic aperture radar satellites TerraSAR-X have been programmed to take images of the search zone.

The resolution of the optical satellites Pléiades 1A & 1B is so high it enables distinguishing objects as small as 50cm.  

Radar imagery from TerraSAR-X can help identify layers of hydrocarbon as well as any oil slick or metallic objects floating on the sea.

Since then, Airbus’s analysts have been scrutinising the data and sharing the leads with the Malaysian Remote Sensing Agency (MRSA).

High-res images acquired by Pléiades have also been shared with the French Space Agency (CNES), while TerraSAR-X images were made available to the Chinese Meteorological Administration who requested the activation of the International Charter on Space and Major Disasters on 11 March, three days after the plane’s disappearance.

China has been heavily involved in the search operations as most of the 239 passengers aboard the lost Boeing 777 were Chinese.

The International Charter on Space and Major Disasters is an international framework of cooperation established in 1999 that binds countries to share satellite data on charitable basis to help disaster relief operations.

Further information

View a series of infographics about the search for missing flight MH370

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