Australian Maritime Safety Authority

Cospas-Sarsat search and rescue satellite system

The search and rescue satellite system

As the International Alerting Post for COSPAS SARSAT satellite search and rescue (SAR) alerts, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) receives international distress alerts, and when necessary, alerts the responsible SAR authority.

The Cospas-Sarsat search and rescue system

What is Cospas Sarsat?

The International Cospas-Sarsat Programme is a satellite-based SAR distress-alert detection system.

The COSPAS SARSAT system is made up of infrastructure in space and on the ground.

The space segment

The space segment consists of satellites that detect and locate distress beacons.

The ground segment

The ground segment is made up of Local User Terminals (LUTs) and Mission Control Centres (MCCs).

LUTs are ground receiving stations for the satellite transmissions.

In Australia, there are LUTs located in Bundaberg, Queensland and Albany, Western Australia that work in cooperation with the New Zealand LUT. The new MEOSAR system has a LUT near Mingenew, Western Australia and a LUT in New Zealand at Goudies Road on the North Island.

MCCs analyse and distribute distress alerts to the Rescue Coordination Centres (RCC) in the country’s search and rescue region where the beacon is both activated and registered.

How does the Cospas Sarsat system work in Australia?

Distress Beacon - satellite - local user terminal - mission control centre - rescue coordination centre - Copyright Cospas-Sarsat/ESA


© Cospas-Sarsat / ESA

1. A distress beacon is activated.

2. Its signal, with its unique identification number (HEX ID) is transmitted and detected by the nearest satellite overhead.

3. An alert is sent to the nearest local user terminal (LUT).

4. The alert is processed by the nearest mission control centre (MCC).

If the beacon is registered, registration details are provided to the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC) in the country in which the beacon is both activated and registered.

If the beacon is activated in the Australian search and rescue region, then the details are forwarded to AMSA’s JRCC in Canberra.

5. The JRCC is notified and begins to arrange the search and rescue operation.

If your beacon is registered, AMSA will ring your emergency contacts immediately for information regarding your whereabouts.

6. Search and rescue authorities commence search operations as soon as possible.

Cospas Sarsat new developments

AMSA is currently implementing a new MEOSAR satellite tracking station in Mingenew, Western Australia.

To find out more about MEOSAR, read the MEOSAR Fact Sheet [PDF Icon PDF 185Kb].

Related information

Twitter Facebook YouTube Copyright · Accessibility · Site Map · Privacy

Information Publication Scheme Davis Langdon Certification Services