Press Releases

    12 March 2002


    VIENNA, 12 March (UN Information Service) – Improving use of COSPAS-SARSAT Satellite Search and Rescue System (SASR) will be the key topic of a five-day United Nations/India Workshop in Bangalore, beginning on 18 March. Representatives of various governmental institutions and private industry from developed and developing countries from the Asia and the Pacific region are to be briefed on both practical and cost-effective space-based solutions, which are currently available from COSPAS-SARSAT Satellite system.

    The International Satellite System for Search and Rescue (COSPAS-SARSAT) is a satellite and ground system designed to provide distress alert and location information from emergency beacons to assist search and rescue (SAR) operations at sea, in the air or on land.

    September of 2002 marks 20 years since COSPAS-SARSAT first began saving lives. Founded in the late 1970s by Canada, France, Soviet Union and the United States of America, the system started operating on 1 September 1982. Since then, it has helped save over 13,000 lives world-wide and this number continues to grow by about 100 each month. It is expected that the number of world-wide rescues for 2001 will total about 1100-1200 when this number is available from the reports submitted to the COSPAS-SARSAT Secretariat.

    More than 35 countries that now help operate this system will join its founders in celebrating this anniversary at the COSPAS-SARSAT Council meetings this year. The importance of the system is continuing to grow as the number of the countries joining the COSPAS-SARSAT system to gain access to the advantages and benefits that it provides continues to rise.

    The system comprises: (a) a space segment operating in low-Earth orbit (LEO) and geostationary orbit (GEO); (b) a ground segment consisting of satellite receiving stations, known as local user terminals (LUT), and data distribution centres, known as mission control centres (MCC); (c) emergency radio beacons operating at 121.5 MHz and/or 406 MHz, the characteristics of which comply with appropriate provisions of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and COSPAS-SARSAT specifications.

    Approximately 600,000 121.5 MHz emergency beacons and 250,000 406 MHz emergency beacons are currently in use world-wide. While many of those beacons are carried by aircraft and maritime vessels in response to national and international carriage requirements, a growing number are carried by non-mandated users.

    For the last 12 years, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has been operationally providing SAR services to national and international users under the umbrella of the international COSPAS-SARSAT programme. With the implementation of international regulations as mandatory for marine vessels and aircraft, the users of the system are growing rapidly. Apart from the ground system support, ISRO also provides a geostationary space segment (INSAT-2A & 2B), which is one of the important components of the COSPAS-SARSAT system for the future developments. The Indian system has a large base of users that includes 7 neighboring countries (Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Seychelles, and Tanzania) in addition to Indian users. In the absence of space, ground and user’s segments, these developing countries can use ISRO’s system for SAR services. To enable them to appropriately benefit from such services, there is a pressing need for capacity building in terms of education and training.

    The newest technology for COSPAS-SARSAT is the development of the 406 MHz emergency beacons that digitally transmit their identification and position in long message format. These beacons utilise either an external or internal electronic navigation receiver (e.g., Global Positioning System receiver) and can transmit their position down to 100-meter accuracy. This allows geo-stationary satellites to combine immediate alerts with precise locations. The polar orbiting satellites are also capable of receiving these signals, thereby providing global coverage. This feature reduces overall rescue time.

    The Workshop is organised to provide those countries within the footprint of the COSPAS-SARSAT station in Bangalore with an opportunity to gain the necessary knowledge to enable them to lead their national authorities into action and to ensure that their respective countries participate in the COSPAS-SARSAT Programme. The Workshop will expose participants to COSPAS-SARSAT operations, including the procedure for distribution of alert signals, once they received at the Bangalore station.

    Around 100 participants are expected to attend the Workshop, from the following countries and international organizations: Australia, Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Madagascar, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritius, Nepal, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Seychelles, Singapore, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Thailand, Tanzania, United States of America, COSPAS-SARSAT, and the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs.

    United Nations-sponsored space-technology related workshops and training courses are intended to help countries develop indigenous capacity to enable them to benefit fully from the growing world-wide body of know-how derived from space research and developments.

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