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 15 March 2018 at 0814 UTC the COSPAS-SARSAT system detected an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) at 26 08.8N 83 05.0W, 68 NM west of Naples, FL. Coast Guard District 07 (CGD07) received a mayday call and launched a C-130 to investigate.
On 13 March 2018 at 0137 UTC the COSPAS-SARSAT system detected a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) at 37 01.6N 111 53.8W, 13 miles southwest of Big Water, UT. The PLB was activated when a 9-person hiking group became exhausted in a remote area.
On 03 March 2018 at 2122 UTC (1622 EST) the COSPAS-SARSAT system detected a 406 MHz Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) at 27 13.4N 082 29.3W, 2 NM west of Little Sarasota Bay, FL. The beacon was activated when a sailing vessel, with 2 people on board, capsized.
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.