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Defence Industry and Space

Galileo Search and Rescue

Reaching you faster – when every minute matters

Galileo Search and Rescue

Search and Rescue (SAR) operations involve locating and helping people in distress. They can be carried out in a variety of locations including at sea, in mountains or deserts, and in urban areas. Galileo helps SAR operators respond to distress signals faster and more effectively while also lowering their own exposure to risk.

Galileo’s contribution to COSPAS-SARSAT

Galileo plays an important role in the Medium Earth Orbit Search and Rescue system. It is integrated into the COSPAS-SARSAT system. The Search and Rescue Transponder on Galileo satellites picks up signals emitted from distress beacons in the 406 – 406.1 MHz band and broadcasts this information to dedicated ground stations (MEOLUTs) in the ‘L6’ band. Once these signals are detected and the beacons are located by the MEOLUTs, COSPAS-SARSAT Mission Control Centres (MCC) will receive the beacon location information and distrubute the data to the relevant rescue centres worldwide.


Thanks to the work of European companies and state-of-the-art EU technology, the integration of Galileo into COSPAS-SARSAT improves the system by:

  • enabling nearly real-time detection and localisation of distress signals from anywhere in the world, significantly improving the latency between the beacon activation and distress localisation
  • making it easier to find the source of a signal by significantly boosting precision in comparison to the current situation
  • increasing availability and improving the detection of signals in difficult terrain or weather conditions thanks to multiple satellites
  • introducing a return link that the SAR operator can send back to the beacon to let people know that their distress signal has been received and a rescue mission has been initiated.

The SAR/Galileo infrastructure complies with the interoperability parameters defined by COSPAS-SARSAT. This enables the signals relayed by the SAR/Galileo, SAR/GPS or SAR/GLONASS infrasctructure to be combined for detecting and locating beacons.




Galileo’s SAR capabilities are integrated into the International COSPAS-SARSAT Programme – a satellite-based SAR distress alert detection and information distribution system. First established in 1979 by Canada, France, the USA, and the former Soviet Union, COSPAS-SARSAT is used to detect and locate emergency beacons activated by aircraft, ships and individuals. It provides accurate, reliable, and timely alert and location data to help SAR operators find and help people in distress.

COSPAS-SARSAT operates through a satellite system maintained and coordinated by its participants. This system detects distress alert transmissions from radio beacons that comply with COSPAS-SARSAT specifications and standards, determines their location, and provides the information to SAR teams.

Currently, 43 countries and organisations participate in the operation and management of the COSPAS-SARSAT system. COSPAS-SARSAT also cooperates with various international organisations including the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).