Natural disasters seem to be more plentiful and powerful than ever. But an alliance of Asian countries and universities is coming to the rescue. The plan is to launch a flock of small satellites to help monitor destruction as it unfolds on Earth, providing emergency responders with critical information faster than ever.

Japan’s Hokkaido and Tohoku Universities are teaming with a swath of Asian nations for the microsatellite project. Partners include Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam, Nikkei Asian Review reports. Each nation will send a share of the microsatellites to the International Space Station, where they’ll be sent into orbit from Kibo, the Japanese module aboard the ISS.

The satellites are tiny: 20-inch cubes that weigh about 11o pounds. That’s 5 percent the size of a typical satellite. These microsatellites will hang at about 300 miles above Earth, using cameras to photograph Earth’s surface with a resolution of around 10 to 16 feet.

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The researchers hope to have 50 of the satellites in orbit by 2020. It’s no small feat, because they cost around $2.54 million each. Apparently, it only takes 25 satellites cover all of Asia, so if we can hit the full 50, this kind of microsatellite technology could be useful to a huge chunk of the world.

Tohoku University researchers with a microsatellite. Credit: Tohoku University

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[Nikkei Asian Review]

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