NASA's Search and Rescue (SAR) office participates in both national and international search and rescue (SAR) efforts by researching, developing and testing new technologies to support life-saving systems worldwide. NASA also provides development, testing and on-orbit checkout services to NOAA satellites involved in the search-and-rescue effort, such as the Geostationary Operational and Polar Orbiting Environmental Satellites. NASA represents the U.S. in the international Cospas-Sarsat program, a satellite-based search-and-rescue distress alert detection system. NASA also serves as the technical lead to the U.S. Search and Rescue Satellite-Aided Tracking (SARSAT) program, a joint effort between the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Air Force, NOAA and NASA.
On 03 May 2018 at 1457 UTC (1057 EDT) the COSPAS-SARSAT system detected a 406 MHz Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) at 22 33.0N 59 34.9W, 440 NM northeast of San Juan, Puerto Rico.
On 02 May 2018 at 1455 UTC (1055 EDT) a 406 MHz Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) was detected at 47 59.46N 123 27.32W, in Olympic National Park, WA. It was automatically activated when a single-engine aircraft, with 1 person on board, crashed.
On 28 April 2018 at 1600 UTC (1200 EDT) a 406 MHz Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) was detected at 61 51.2N 149 05.3W, 16 miles north of Palmer, AK. It was activated when 2 hikers experienced low visibility and avalanche conditions.
NASA has been supporting search-and-rescue efforts for more than forty years. Beginning in 1974, NASA, along with the Department of Transportation, Department of Commerce and Federal Communications Commission, formed the Interagency Committee on Search and Rescue. Today, the National SAR Committee (NSARC), comprised of NASA and nine other federal agencies, are committed to supporting and advancing our nation’s SAR infrastructure.
The Cospas-Sarsat program was established in the 1980s as a partnership between the U.S., Canada, France and the former USSR, to provide accurate, timely and reliable distress alert and location data to help searchers locate and rescue people in distress. Today, more than 42 countries and organizations are associated with the program and actively participate in the management and operation of the system. Following the formalization of the program, the U.S. SARSAT program was formed as a joint effort between four organizations: the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Air Force, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, with NASA providing technical leadership across space, ground and beacon segments.
NASA performs much of the research and development work for the U.S. Search and Rescue program and also lends their expertise to the Cospas-Sarsat international partnership. The agency’s Search and Rescue Office at Goddard Space Flight Center is a hotbed for cutting-edge, life-saving technology, from beacons to satellites.