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406 Day: celebrating Galileo saving lives

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At this time is 406 Day – the annual campaigning day to unfold consciousness of the significance of emergency beacons, and the satellites that decide up their alerts, together with Europe’s Galileo constellation. In addition to letting individuals the world over discover their method, Galileo additionally serves to detect SOS messages and relay them to authorities, contributing to saving many lives.

Such detections can occur anytime, however one current high-profile incident occurred within the midst of the Vendée Globe solo round-the-world yacht race. Skipper Kevin Escoffier had his boat smashed to pieces by fierce waves in the Southern Ocean.

PRB yacht

He took to his life raft. Because it hit the water it mechanically activated his rescue beacon, transmitting a 406 MHz SOS sign for computerized pickup by collaborating satellites, courtesy of the Cospas-Sarsat satellite-based emergency detecting and finding system. The sign allowed the race authorities to localise Kevin’s place inside a matter of minutes and ship close by boats to the rescue.

The one system that may independently find a beacon anyplace on Earth’s floor, Cospas-Sarsat has helped save hundreds of individuals because it was first established in 1982. Initially the system operated by transponders hosted aboard both low-Earth orbit or geostationary satellites.

Within the final decade Galileo joined Cospas-Sarsat – supported by the European Fee, the system’s proprietor – driving a big improve in efficiency. As a result of they’ve such a excessive orbital altitude, at 23 222 km up, whereas nonetheless transferring steadily by the sky, Galileo satellites mix broad views of Earth with the flexibility to facilitate fast dedication of the place of a misery sign by a mix of time-based and Doppler ranging.


406 Day

Worldwide 406 Day – taking its identify from the radio frequency utilized by Cospas-Sarsat beacons, and the US order of at present’s date – seeks to remind beacon customers to take care to verify their batteries and performance. Such beacons are used aboard boats and ships, additionally aboard plane and are additionally carried by hikers within the wilderness – anyplace past the attain of ordinary phone-based emergency companies.

All the identical, an SOS sign can attain the authorities surprisingly swiftly, inside a couple of minutes. First the sign from the beacon is detected mechanically by the search and rescue payload aboard collaborating satellites – usually multiple without delay – then pinpoints its supply on Earth’s floor.

Subsequent, this info is relayed – by way of a set of stations on the corners of Europe, within the case of Galileo-detected alerts – then handed to the closest nationwide rescue centre, at which level the rescue can start.

Galileo satellite

The beacons themselves are surprisingly compact in dimension, usually the dimensions of a medium-sized flashlight. However the search and rescue payloads carried aboard the Galileo satellites in orbit are equally modest. At solely eight kg in mass, these life-saving payloads eat simply three% of onboard energy, with their receive-transmit repeater housed subsequent to the principle navigation antenna.

All however the first two of the 26 Galileo satellites in orbit carry these payloads, with two extra satellites scheduled so as to add to their quantity later this 12 months.

Galileo’s Search and Rescue service is Europe’s contribution to Cospas-Sarsat, operated by the European International Navigation Satellite tv for pc System Company, GSA, and designed and developed at ESA.

Calling for help

The Cospas-Sarsat satellite tv for pc repeaters are supplemented by a trio of floor stations on the corners of Europe, referred to as Medium-Earth Orbit Native Consumer Terminals (MEOLUTs), based mostly in Norway’s Spitsbergen Islands, Cyprus and Spain’s Canary Islands and coordinated from a management centre in Toulouse, France.

This trio is quickly to change into a quartet, with a fourth station on France’s La Reunion Island within the Indian Ocean.

Galileo’s participation in Cospas-Sarsat has led in flip to a service innovation – from final 12 months, Galileo has been replying to SOS alerts with ‘return hyperlink messages’, assuring those in peril that their signals have been received and help is on the way.

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