Proceedings Of The Marine

FALL 2011

Proceedings magazine is a communication tool for the Coast Guard's Marine Safety & Security Council. Each quarterly magazine focuses on a specific theme of interest to the marine industry.

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The International Cospas-Sarsat Programme Taking the "search" out of search and rescue. by MR. AJAY MEHTA 'HSXW\ 'LUHFWRU 2IÀFH RI 6DWHOOLWH DQG 3URGXFW 2SHUDWLRQV 1DWLRQDO 2FHDQLF DQG $WPRVSKHULF $GPLQLVWUDWLRQ The International Cospas-Sarsat Programme (Cospas- Sarsat) is an intergovernmental organization estab- lished to coordinate satellite-aided search and rescue activities. It comprises two satellite-based systems that relay distress signals from mariners, aviators, and land-based users. Russian satellites and instruments comprise the COSPAS system, which is a Russian acronym for Cosmicheskaya Sistema Poiska Avariynyh Sudov, or "space system for the search of vessels in distress." The search and rescue satellite-aided tracking sys- tem, or SARSAT, is the name of a payload on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's polar-orbiting operational environmental satellites and geostationary operational environmental satel- lites.1 The system also includes emergency beacons used to initiate a distress call and ground equipment used to track satellites, retrieve the signals, locate the source of the signal, and transmit the distress alerts to search and rescue organizations. Together, they form Cospas-Sarsat. In Action Emergency beacons trigger the system and are acti- vated either manually or automatically, depending on their use. The beacon digitally transmits information DERXW WKH EHDFRQ WKH XVHU VSHFLÀF LQIRUPDWLRQ DERXW the vessel or aircraft, its position (if equipped with navigation input), and a link to a national registry that can provide more information. The signal is detected by Cospas-Sarsat satellites and relayed to a satellite ground station or local user ter- minal, which tracks the satellite, retrieves the beacon 12 Proceedings Fall 2011 Rooted in Tragedy The origins of the system and the organization can be traced to several high-profile incidents in the United States. In 1967, a 16-year-old girl survived a light aircraft crash in California. Tragically, even as responders searched for her, she starved to death after being stranded for many days. In 1972, U.S. Representative Hale Boggs (the House majority leader at that time) and U.S. Representative Nick Begich were lost while flying from Anchorage to Juneau, Alaska. U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Navy, and U.S. Air Force planes searched for the plane with no success. Bibliography: signal, and — if retrieved from a polar-orbiting sat- ellite — calculates the beacon's position. The beacon position is then relayed to a mission control center (MCC), which collates the information with that from other sources, appends registration information, and transmits it to the appropriate search and rescue authority, or to another MCC. All this happens within minutes. What Makes Cospas-Sarsat Successful Cospas-Sarsat has contributed to the rescue of more than 30,000 people worldwide since its inception.2 International

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