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Communications satellites: Emergency response

December 17, 2006

Helicopter Rescue Canada

(NC)-Advanced satellite technology has saved more than 18,000 lives over the past 25 years in search and rescue operations worldwide.

After nearly 25 years in service, SARSAT, or Search and Rescue Satellite-Aided Tracking, is still saving lives-over 1,000 every year worldwide. SARSAT was developed by Canada, France, the U.S., and Russia in 1979. It is the grandfather of applied satellite technology and an excellent example of the peaceful use of space. The success of SARSAT has inspired decades of wireless communication innovation.
Earth to space and back: this signal saves lives
In 1982, a few days after the first satellite was launched and the tracking system began operating, the first rescue took place. Three people in a plane crash near Dawson Creek, B.C. were rescued after a Canadian-designed and -built ground station received the signal. Since then, at least 18,000 lives have been saved throughout the world-1,000 in Canada. Many hikers, northern explorers, plane-crash survivors, sailors, and fishermen owe their lives to the rescue crews alerted by SARSAT.
Every Personal Locator Beacon or Emergency Locator Transmitter is registered, enabling Mission Control Centres to easily identify the user. When a transponder signal is activated in an emergency, rescue services are alerted and the location is pinpointed so that search and rescue teams can be dispatched.
Canada recognizes the need
In a country with extreme cold, vast stretches of wilderness, and freezing waters, a quick search-and-rescue response can mean the difference between life and death. This is what spurred Canada to become a lead partner in SARSAT using low-Earth-orbit satellites. The four original partner nations have been joined by 23 others who provide ground stations.
Canada is a major supplier of the ground receiving stations installed around the world and Canadian industry has built 13 satellite payloads, called SAR repeaters. Canada was also instrumental in developing the enhanced geostationary satellite system called GEOSAR and continues to be a partner in developing the new middle-Earth-orbit or MEOSAR system using a variety of global positioning systems such as the American GPS, Russian Glonass, and soon, the European Galileo satellites that will upgrade search and rescue for the 21st century.
Three regional coordination centres serve Canada: Victoria, for the West Coast, Trenton, for central and northern Canada, and Halifax, for the East Coast. These centres are jointly staffed by the Coast Guard and the Canadian Forces.

Source:News Canada

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