The detection of emergency beacons will be greatly improved by the introduction of Europe's satellite positioning system, Galileo. The Galileo satellites will carry transponders to relay distress signals to search and rescue organisations.
In connection with this, representatives of the Galileo project attended the recent 21st annual Joint Committee Meeting of COSPAS-SARSAT, the international programme for satellite-aided search and rescue.
The partners in Galileo are committed to developing the Galileo search and rescue component as an integral part of MEOSAR, the future worldwide search and rescue satellite system.
Galileo joined the meeting in a formal capacity as a major contributor to the MEOSAR programme, following the signature of the 'Declaration of Intent to Cooperate on the Development and Evaluation of MEOSAR'. MEOSAR, which stands for Medium Earth Orbit Search And Rescue, is a programme to equip satellites that operate in medium-Earth orbits with payloads that receive signals from distress beacons on Earth. These signals are then relayed to rescue organisations, giving them the location of the emergency.
COSPAS-SARSAT already has systems operating in low-Earth orbit and geostationary orbit. The low-Earth orbit satellites can determine the location of emergency beacons using the Doppler effect as they pass overhead. However, there is a delay in relaying the distress signal because the satellites can only 'see' a part of the Earth's surface at any given time and a beacon is only detected when the satellite passes nearly overhead. Also, the satellites have to store the location of the emergency and transmit it to a ground station once one comes into in range, causing a further delay.
Search and rescue transponders on geostationary satellites can constantly view a large, fixed area of the Earth, thereby eliminating the time delay in detecting distress signals. However
Contact: Dominique Detain
European Space Agency