ESA’s completion of a pair of dedicated ground stations at opposite ends of Europe has enabled Galileo satellites in orbit to participate in global testing of the Cospas–Sarsat search and rescue system.
The Maspalomas station, at the southern end of the largest island of the Canary Islands, at the southern fringe of European waters, was activated in June.
And this last month has seen the Svalbard site on Spitsbergen in the Norwegian Arctic come on line – the two sites can already communicate and will soon be performing joint tests.
The second pair of Europe's Galileo satellites – launched together on 12 October last year – are the first of the constellation to host SAR payloads.
These can pick up UHF signals from emergency beacons aboard ships, aircraft or carried by individuals, which are then relayed to ground stations.
There, the source is pinpointed and automatically passed on to a control centre, which then routes it to local authorities for rescue.
Supporting search and rescue is a separate function to Galileo's main task of providing global navigation and timing services, but no less important.
Galileo is the name of the European Satellite Navigation programme
ESA is the acronym of the European Space Agency