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Russian Space Agency urged to restore COSPAS-SARSAT low-orbit segment

November 12, 2015, 14:36 UTC+3 MOSCOW

The proposal was put forward in the process of coordination of the draft Federal Space Program for 2016-2025

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© Stanislav Krasilnikov/TASS

MOSCOW, November 12. /TASS/. The Russian Transport Ministry has requested the Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) to restore the low-orbit segment of the Cospas-Sarsat international search and rescue satellite system, a ministry official said on Thursday.

According to the international commitments, Russia should have at least two orbiting satellites in the system. The proposal was put forward in the process of coordination of the draft Federal Space Program for 2016-2025.

"The Ministry of Transport and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation consider it necessary for Russia to fulfill its international obligations in part regarding the maintenance of the COSPAS-SARSAT system’s low-orbit segment," Director of the Transport Ministry’s development programs department Alexey Semenov told the Izvestia daily. "The possibility of installing equipment on Russian spacecraft is currently considered."

The COSPAS-SARSAT system was established in 1979 by the USSR, France, the United States and Canada. Now the system comprises 6 satellites in low orbits and 8 satellites in geostationary orbit (one of them is Russia’s Electro-L satellite). The satellites receive SOS signals, transmitted by emergency beacons installed on ships, aircraft or worn by hiking tourists. According to statistics, in 2012 alone the beacons helped rescue more than 600 people.

"The Russian Federation as the Soviet Union’s legal successor has an obligation to maintain at least two low-orbit Cospas-Sarsat spacecraft," said Andrey Kuropyatnikov, director general of the Morsviazsputnik state company that ensures the functioning of the Russian segment of the system. "We regularly receive reminders and suggestions from the partners of our commitments, which unfortunately, are not met. We constantly inform the Federal Space Agency of the existence of these commitments."

According to him, Roscosmos considers it necessary to install the Cospas-Sarsat equipment as an additional payload on the Meteor 2.1 and Meteor 2.2 satellites. "These spacecraft by the ballistic parameters of the orbit suit us the most. We expect the approval of this decision, as all the technical issues have been settled," Kuropyatnikov said.

The COSPAS-SARSAT system operates with both low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites as well as geostationary (GSO) satellites on the frequencies 121.5 MHz and 243 MHz and in the band 406-406.1 MHz. COSPAS is a Russian acronym for Space System for Search of Distress Vessels and SARSAT means Search and Rescue Satellite-Aided Tracking.

The COSPAS-SARSAT uses both geostationary search and rescue (GEOSAR) satellites and low earth orbit search and rescue (LEOSAR) satellites. The geostationary satellites see a large part of the world. These geostationary satellites provide immediate alerting and identification of 406 MHz beacons. However, the GEOSAR satellites are not able to determine the location of the beacon. They can, however, provide immediate alerts. Ideally, a SARSAT or COSPAS LEOSAR satellite will fly over the beacon within the next hour and calculate the location.

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