The International Satellite System for Search and Rescue, Cospas-Sarsat,
links those in distress with search and rescue responders around
the world. Cospas-Sarsat is the satellite system that monitors for
signals from emergency beacons. A combination of low-earth (LEO)
orbit satellites process and locate emergency beacons signals using
Doppler processing methods. Geostationary (GEO) satellites are also
used to alert and helps locate emergency beacons if they are GPS
equipped. They can narrow the search area to within 100 metres within
minutes of the beacon's activation.
When activated, a 406 MHz emergency beacon sends a digitally encoded signal that indicates an emergency exists. An orbitting
Cospas-Sarsat satellite receives the distress signal as it orbits the earth and downloads it to specialized stations known as Local
User Terminals (LUTs). These automated facilities process the signals and forward information and location data to one of 26 Mission
Control Centres (MCCs) located around the globe.
In Canada, location information is relayed to the Canadian Mission Control Centre (CMCC) at 8 Wing Canadian Forces Bases in
Trenton Ontario. Using the emergency beacon's unique code and registered information (when appropriately registered), CMCC validates
the alerts forwarding them to one of the Joint Rescue Coordination Centres (JRCCs) or to appropriate civil authorities for action.
The JRCCs are strategically located in Trenton, Ontario; Halifax, Nova Scotia; and Victoria, British Columbia. There are also two
Maritime Rescue Sub Centres (MRSC) located in Quebec City, Quebec and St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador.
Canadian Federal SAR Area of Responsibility