Online Journal of Space Communication


Cospas-Sarsat, an international satellite system for search and rescue, started operating in 1982 and has been credited with saving thousands of lives since then. Hundreds of thousands of aviators, mariners and land users worldwide are equipped with Cospas-Sarsat distress beacons, which could help save their lives in emergency situations anywhere in the world. This paper outlines the evolution of the system and describes how satellites are constantly circling the globe monitoring for ‘SOS signals’, while tracking stations on six continents receive the satellite signals, compute the locations of the distress events and forward the calls for help to the appropriate rescue authorities. This humanitarian system is unique in the way that it is funded and operated, while its use remains free of charge to the end user in distress.



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