The European Space Agency (ESA) today announced that it has switched-on a search and rescue (SAR) package on its Galileo navigation satellites. The milestone is a "major" expansion of the Cospas-Sarsat (Space System for the Search of Vessels in Distress and Search and Rescue Satellite-Aided Tracking) network, which receives distress calls from air and sea vessels.
“At this stage, our main objective is to check the repeater has not been damaged by launch,” said Igor Stojkovic, the ESA’s Galileo SAR engineer. “The first day was a matter of turning the repeater on and checking its temperature and power profiles were as predicted. The following day involved sending a signal to the repeater using the UHF antenna at ESA’s Redu Centre in Belgium, then picking up the reply from our L-band antenna.”
The two Galileo navigation satellites that are the first to host the SAR repeaters were launched in October of last year. Once they reached 23,222 kilometer orbits, researchers began a "rigorous test campaign." The SAR repeater on the third Galileo satellite was activated on January 17. Further testing of the new system will soon be completed.
The international Cospas-Sarsat tracking system has been working for over 30 years. According to the ESA, it has saved an estimated 31,000 lives during that time.
(Image courtesy ESA)