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NOAA Satellites Lead to Rescues of 263 People in 2012

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 15-Jan-2013
Updated: 15-Jan-2013 04:02 PM

NOAA's satellites are best known for their role in forecasting the weather, but they also carry transponders for the international Search and Rescue Satellite-Aided Tracking System, Cospas-Sarsat.   NOAA announced today that the system led to the rescues of 263 people in the United States and surrounding waters during 2012.

The Cospas-Sarsat system dates back to 1979 when the Soviet Union, United States, Canada and France teamed up to create a global system to locate people in distress.   Soviet COSPAS navigation satellites and U.S. polar-orbiting weather satellites initiallly hosted the space-based transponders.  The first U.S. rescue using the system was in 1982.  The 30th anniversary of that event was celebrated last year.  

More than 30,000 people worldwide have been rescued over the decades, of which about 7,000 were in the United States. Forty two other countries and organizations have joined the original four sponsors of the system.  Today, transponders are carried on NOAA's polar-orbiting and geostationary weather satellites, European polar-orbiting and geostationary weather satellites, and Russian geostationary weather and data relay satellites.

Of the 263 people rescued in or near the United States in 2012 announced by NOAA today, 182 were rescued from the water, 22 from aviation incidents, and 59 from situations on land.   Alaska had the most (45), followed by North Carolina (38) and Florida (25).


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