17 November 2006

United Nations to Hold Satellite-Aided Search and Rescue Training Course in South Africa

VIENNA, 17 November (UN Information Service) -- The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (OOSA), within the framework of  the United Nations Programme on Space Applications, will hold a five-day training course on the International Satellite System for Search and Rescue (Cospas-Sarsat), in cooperation with the Department of Transport of the Republic of South Africa. The training course, which will take place in Cape Town from 20 to 24 November 2006, will brief representatives of government institutions of the South African region 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 (currently there are around 1 million beacons installed on maritime, air and land vehicles), which send distress alert signals and location information to satellites. The satellites then transmit the information to search and rescue centres, which provide information to rescue teams. Founded in the late 1970s by Canada, France, the Soviet Union and the United States, the system started operating in 1982. Since then it has assisted in saving more than 20,000 persons in over 5,000 distress situations.

Currently 39 countries and organizations help to operate this system. The system is available to any country on a non-discriminatory basis and is free of charge for the end-user in distress. The total coverage area of the Cospas-Sarsat Satellite System in the South African region for both maritime and aeronautical is approximately 28.5 million square kilometers and stretches down to the South Pole. While many countries in the South African region have established effective search and rescue services, a lot of them have not tapped into the vast resources that Cospas-Sarsat can provide. In this regard, there is an urgent need for capacity building in terms of education, training and policymaking, to enable countries in the region to benefit from these services. 

As part of this effort, the training course aims at promoting awareness about the Cospas-Sarsat Satellite System and establishing a formal and reliable protocol with the user countries, especially from the South African region, to better understand and coordinate system's activities and operations, thus enabling the Cospas-Sarsat Satellite System to play a vital role in saving lives.

In addition to the basic system concept and applications, the training course will introduce new features of the system such as: combating terrorist and pirate attacks through the Ship Security Alert system, personal location beacons and Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) signal incorporation.

Participants from the following countries, national and international organizations are expected to attend the training course: Australia, Botswana, Canada, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, United States, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Cospas-Sarsat 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 and technology. Located in Vienna, Austria, OOSA maintains a website at http://www.unoosa.org/

For information contact:

Victor Kotelnikov
Scientific Affairs Officer, OOSA
Telephone: +43 1 260 60 4955
E-mail: victor.kotelnikov@unvienna.org