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Search and Rescue Satellite Program Celebrates 30 Years, 30,000 Rescues

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 10-Oct-2012
Updated: 10-Oct-2012 05:06 PM

It may be getting a lot of advice these days about how to manage its satellite programs, but the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is also getting a pat on the back for 30 years of helping rescue people in distress through management of the U.S. portion of the international Cospas-SARSAT search and rescue satellite system.  More than 30,000 people around the world have been rescued because of this program.

Cospas-SARSAT started as a cooperative effort among the Soviet Union, the United States, Canada and France.  Transponders that could detect distress signals from Emergency Locator Transmitters on ships and aircraft, and later carried by individuals, were placed on Soviet (now Russian) navigation satellites and American polar-orbiting weather satellites.  Today, the number of countries and organizations that participate in operation and management of the program has grown to 43.

The first U.S. rescue was 30 years ago today when the Coast Guard pulled three people from a sinking catamaran 300 miles off the coast of New England after being alerted through the Cospas-SARSAT system.  Of the approximately 30,000 people rescued since then, about 7,000 were in the United States, including 198 this year alone.



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