News Item

Galileo for SAR

Completion of 2 ground stations has let Galileo satellites participate in testing of the Cospas–Sarsat search and rescue system.

ESA’s completion of a pair of dedicated ground stations at opposite ends of Europe has enabled the satellites in orbit to participate in testing of the global SAR system.

The Maspalomas station - at the southern end of the largest of the Canary Islands - was activated in June. And September saw the Svalbard site on Spitsbergen in the Norwegian Arctic come on line. The 2 sites can already communicate and will soon be performing joint tests.

This has enabled the participation of the latest 2 Galileo satellites in an international demonstration and evaluation programme - a worldwide test campaign for a new expansion of the Cospas–Sarsat satellite-based rescue system..

Founded by Canada, France, Russia and US, Cospas-Sarsat claims to have assisted in the rescue of tens of thousands of souls in its 3 decades of service. Distress signals from across the globe are detected by satellites, then swiftly relayed to the nearest SAR authorities.

Now the programme is introducing a new medium-orbit SAR system to improve coverage and response times - with the Galileo satellites in the vanguard of this major expansion. Supporting SAR is a separate function to Galileo’s navigation and timing services.

The second pair of Galileo satellites - launched together on 12 October 2012 - are the first of the constellation to host these SAR payloads, which can pick up emergency beacons' UHF transmissions from ships, aircraft or individuals, which are then relayed to ground stations. There, the source is located and passed on to a control centre, which then routes it to local authorities for rescue.

ESA’s Galileo SAR Engineer explains that the Galileo satellites, together with similar SAR payloads on Glonass satellites and a pair of US GPS satellites, demonstrated an ability to locate simulated emergency beacons to an accuracy of 2–5 km in a matter of minutes.

He concluded 'Our in-orbit validation tests so far have been in line with expectation and beyond, giving us a lot of confidence in the performance of the final system, once completed.'

Details from ESA below.

  • 14 October 2013
  • Space

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