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News announcement | 6 April 2021

The Galileo/SAR unique feature "Return Link" enters Full Operational Capacity just one year after its presentation

Today, we are celebrating the #406Day2021. What is “406 Day”? It is the 6th day of the 4th month, April, expressed as it might be in the United States and many other countries: “406”.  The “International Search and Rescue Beacon” day.

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Today, are celebrating the #406Day2021.

What is “406 Day”?

It is the 6th day of the 4th month, April, expressed as it might be in the United States and many other countries: “406”.   This is a reference to the 406 Megahertz radio frequency that is monitored globally for signals from distress-alert beacons by the International Cospas-Sarsat Programme, a cooperation of 45 governments and agencies that helps save an average of seven lives a day, worldwide .

The 406 Day is globally celebrated as the “International Search and Rescue Beacon” day.

The European Commission, together with its partners (the European GNSS Agency (GSA), the European Space Agency (ESA) and France’s Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES), amongst others) is proud to have brought a European contribution to this international effort by installing distress-alert receivers onboard the Galileo satellites, delivering unprecedented speed of detection of the distress signals and accuracy in locating the position of the person in distress.

The Galileo program provides today more satellites for distress-alert detection and location than any other constellation. Galileo also provides an exclusive function: the “Return Link Service” (RLS).

This unique feature provides the user with an acknowledgement indication on the beacon that a distress signal from the beacon was received and its position located – a major morale booster for the people in life-threatening situations!

In just over a year since its first introduction, the Return Link functionality of Galileo has been endorsed by the Cospas-Sarsat Council in March 2021 as having achieved the transition to Full Operational Capacity, available globally.

The Search And Rescue Service of Galileo is a fantastic tool, but we shall not forget that rescue operations can only be successful thanks to the amazing people involved in the rescue operations. People who put their comfort – and sometimes their lives – at risk to help and assist those in danger.

Today is a great day to recognize their actions, and pay tribute to their courage and dedication.

We remain committed to provide them with the best and most adapted tools as possible.

Therefore, we have sent invitations today to more than 250 operational Search And Rescue units to collect their views and their expectations, so that the Next Developments of Galileo/SAR will match their operational needs as closely as possible, to save even more lives in the future.