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Search and Rescue Satellite Aided Tracking (SARSAT)

NSSDCA ID: 1993-050A-05

Mission Name: NOAA 13
Principal Investigator:


The Search and Rescue Satellite Aided Tracking system (SARSAT-COSPAS) was an international communications system for relaying search and rescue messages from ships and aircraft in distress. Cooperating organizations included NOAA, the Russian Merchant Marine, Canada Depertment of Defense and communications industries, and CNES/France. SARSAT equipment was provided by Canada and France to be flown on NOAA POES and on Russian polar orbiting satellites (COSPAS or "System for Search of Vessels in Distress"). The SARSAT-COSPAS system consisted of both space and ground components. The SARSAT system elements were: (1) a space-based receiver, frequency translation repeater (provided by the Department of Communications, Canada) for both existing and experimental Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT)/Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRB) bands; (2) a Local User Terminal (LUT) which received the ELT/EPIRB signals and processed the doppler data to earth locate the transmitting platform; (3) operational and experimental ELT and EPIRB systems; (4) a space-based receiver and processor for the experimental (406 MHz) ELT/EPIRB transmissions (provided by CNES, France); and (5) the Mission Control Centers for coordinating activities, processing global data and coordinating search activities. Data from the 121.5-MHz ELTs, the 243-MHz EPIRBs, and experimental 406-MHz ELTs/EPIRBs were received by the Search and Rescue Repeater (SARR) and broadcast in real time on an L-band frequency (1544.5 MHz). Real-time data were monitored by Local User Terminals (LUTs) operating in many countries (including United States, Canada, France, and Russia). The 406-MHz data were also processed by the Search and Rescue Processor (SARP), and stored on the spacecraft for later transmittal to the CDA stations in Alaska and Virginia, thus providing full global coverage. The distress signals were forwarded to Mission Control Centers located in each country for subsequent relay to the appropriate Rescue Coordination Center.

Alternate Names

  • Search and Rescue (S&R)

Funding Agencies

  • Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (France)
  • Department of Communications/Communications Research Centre (Canada)
  • NASA-Office of Space Science Applications (United States)
  • NOAA National Environmental Satellite Service (United States)
  • Russian Space Agency (U.S.S.R)


  • Engineering: None assigned

Additional Information

Questions and comments about this experiment can be directed to: Coordinated Request and User Support Office



NameRoleOriginal AffiliationE-mail
Principal InvestigatorNOAA National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service
Dr. Wayne HembreeTeam MemberNASA Goddard Space Flight Center
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