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Canada to Supply MEOSAR Search and Rescue Repeaters to GPS III

August 13, 2015  - By

The Canadian government will begin providing search-and-rescue repeaters for the U.S. Air Force’s GPS III satellites, reports Space News. The repeaters provided by Canada’s Medium Earth Orbit Search and Rescue (MEOSAR) satellite project will significantly reduce the time it takes to locate a distress signal.

Canada’s Department of National Defence will begin negotiations with the U.S. Air Force to install 24 repeaters on GPS III satellites, starting with the 11th GPS III satellite. Canada’s MEOSAR satellite project includes construction of three ground stations, to be built by 2020.

The MEOSAR satellite payload is being developed for GPS III satellites.

The MEOSAR satellite payload is being developed for GPS III satellites.

The Canadian government first announced the MEOSAR project in 2013, awarding Com Dev International of Cambridge, Ontario, an initial contract worth 4.7 million Canadian dollars for research and design work on the repeaters. Despite completion of that phase, Canada’s Department of National Defence put the project on hold, possibly for budgetary reasons.

A contract award for the MEOSAR repeaters is now expected to be announced next year.

A MEOSAR repeater will be able to detect signals from emergency beacons and retransmit the signals to receiver stations on the ground. The emergency messages can then be sent to appropriate authorities so that people in danger can be quickly located and rescued.

MEOSAR will provide a more capable system than COSPAS-SARSAT, an international satellite-based search and rescue distress alert detection system established by Canada, France, the former Soviet Union and the United States in 1979. It is credited with saving more than 33,000 lives since its inception. MEOSAR will reduce the time it takes to detect and locate a distress signal from an hour to around five minutes.

Com Dev began the development of its MEOSAR technology in 2008 under a cost-shared research and development project with the Canadian Space Agency. Canada’s National Search and Rescue Secretariat also later provided additional R&D support.

The search and rescue transponders were originally destined for Galileo, according to Space News, but stalled because Canada lacked a defense certificate to be able to supply the Galileo program.

For background on the MEOSAR program, see the January 2011 Innovation column, “The Distress Alerting Satellite System.”