Press Releases

    2 February 2004

    United Nations Holds Training Course on Satellite-Aided Search and Rescue

    VIENNA, 2 February (UN Information Service) -- The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, under the United Nations Programme on Space Applications, will hold a five-day training course on improving the use of the International Satellite System for Search and Rescue (Cospas-Sarsat). The training course, which is being organized in cooperation with the United States, will take place in Miami, from 2 to 6 February 2004. Representatives from government institutions and private industry from the Latin America and the Caribbean region will be briefed on both practical and cost-effective space-based solutions that are currently available through the Cospas-Sarsat Satellite system.

    Cospas-Sarsat is a satellite and ground system designed to help search and rescue operations at sea, in the air or on land. The system works with emergency beacons, which send distress alert signals and location information to satellites, which then transmit the information to search and rescue teams. Founded in the late 1970s by Canada, France, the former Soviet Union and the United States, the system started operating in 1982. Since then, it has assisted in saving 15,703 people in 4,485 distress situations.

    More than 35 countries now help operate this system, whose importance grows as the number of countries joining the system to gain access to its advantages and benefits continues to rise.

    The primary objective of the training course is to promote awareness about Cospas-Sarsat and to establish a formal and reliable protocol with the user countries, for a better understanding and coordination of the system’s activities and operations. This in turn will facilitate the vital role of Cospas-Sarsat in saving lives.

    While many countries in Latin America and the Caribbean have established effective search and rescue services, a lot of them have not tapped into the tremendous resources that Cospas-Sarsat can provide. Currently, only Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile and Peru participate in the system by providing mission control centres and ground-segment equipment. There is an urgent need for capacity building in terms of education, training and policymaking, to enable countries in the Western Hemisphere to benefit from these services.

    Participants from the following countries, territories and international organizations are expected to attend the training course: Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, France, Guyana, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, United States, Uruguay, Venezuela, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Falkland Islands, Netherlands Antilles, Cospas-Sarsat, Corporación Centroamericana de Servicios de Navegación Aérea and the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs.

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    The United Nations Programme on Space Applications is implemented by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs and works to improve the use of space science and technology for the economic and social development of all nations, in particular developing countries. Under the Programme, the Office conducts training courses, workshops, seminars and other activities on applications and capacity building in subjects such as remote sensing, communications, satellite meteorology, search and rescue, basic space science, satellite navigation and space law.

    The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (OOSA) implements the decisions of the General Assembly and of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space and its two Subcommittees, the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee and the Legal Subcommittee. The Office is responsible for promoting international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space, and assisting developing countries in using space science technology. Located in Vienna, Austria, OOSA maintains a website at