The completion of the Maspalomas station at the southern end of the largest island of the Canary Islands, linked with the Svalbard site on Spitsbergen in the Norwegian arctic, has enabled Europe's Galileo global positioning system satellites in orbit to be included in testing of the Cospas-Sarsat search-and-rescue system, the European Space Agency said Tuesday.
Cospas-Sarsat, founded by Canada, France, Russia and the United States, has been instrumental in rescuing thousands of lost or stranded people in its three decades of service, the ESA said.
Distress signals from across the globe are detected by satellites and quickly relayed to the nearest search-and-rescue authorities.
Including the Galileo satellites is part of a major expansion of the system intended to improve coverage and response times.
While supporting search and rescue is a separate function to the Galileo satellites' main task of providing global navigation and timing services, it is no less important, ESA scientists said.
"Our in-orbit validation tests so far have been in line with expectation and beyond, giving us a lot of confidence in the performance of the final system, once completed," Galileo engineer Igor Stojkovic said.
"The Galileo satellites, tested in combination with the same SAR [search-and-rescue] payloads on Russian Glonass satellites as well as compatible repeaters on a pair of U.S. GPS satellites, showed an ability to pinpoint simulated emergency beacons down to an accuracy of 2 to 5 kilometers [1 to 3 miles] in a matter of minutes," he said.
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