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INTERNATIONAL MARITIME ORGANIZATION

E
IMO

SUB-COMMITTEE ON
RADIOCOMMUNICATIONS AND
SEARCH AND RESCUE
5th session
Agenda item 6

COMSAR 5/6/1
15 September 2000
Original: ENGLISH

SATELLITE SERVICES (INMARSAT AND COSPAS-SARSAT)


Status of the COSPAS-SARSAT Programme
Note by COSPAS-SARSAT

SUMMARY
Executive summary:

This document provides a brief status report on the COSPAS-SARSAT


System and highlights recent developments in the System, including
preparations for the future phase-out of the 121.5 MHz satellite
alerting capability and the assignment of new frequency channels in
the 406.0 - 406.1 MHz frequency band.

Action to be taken:

See paragraph 14

Related documents:

COMSAR 5/6/2

Introduction
1
The COSPAS-SARSAT satellite system for search and rescue (SAR) provides distress alerts
and location information to SAR services world-wide. Since the launch of the first polar-orbiting
satellite in June 1982, COSPAS-SARSAT has provided assistance in rescuing 11,227 persons
in 3,361 search and rescue operations world-wide. COSPAS-SARSAT assisted in the rescue of 1,227
persons during 1999, in 340 separate SAR incidents. Of this total number of SAR events in 1999,
216 were maritime incidents, of which 64% involved the use of 406 MHz distress beacons and 36%
involved the use 121.5 MHz distress beacons.
2
During year 2000, the COSPAS-SARSAT System continued to expand with the launch of
one new polar-orbiting satellite COSPAS-9 (28 June) in low Earth orbit (LEO) and one additional
geostationary Earth orbit (GEO) satellite, GOES-11 (3 May), maintained as in-orbit spare. In
addition, two Mission Control Centres (MCCs), two ground receiving stations in the LEOSAR
system (LEOLUTs) and two ground receiving stations in the GEOSAR system (GEOLUTs) were
commissioned into the System.
A LEOLUT and MCC installed by South Africa will be
commissioned into the System upon South Africa completing the formal association procedure with
COSPAS-SARSAT.
3
As of August 2000, the COSPAS-SARSAT System was composed of eight satellites in polar
orbit, three geostationary satellites, thirty-seven LEOLUTs, seven GEOLUTs and twenty-two MCCs
(see for reference Tables 1, 2, 3 and 4). Over 220,000 distress beacons operating at 406 MHz and
about 600,000 of the older generation 121.5 MHz beacons were in service.
For reasons of economy, this document is printed in a limited number. Delegates are
kindly asked to bring their copies to meetings and not to request additional copies.

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Table 1: COSPAS-SARSAT LEOSAR Space Segment Status (August 2000)


COSPAS-SARSAT
Payload
COSPAS-4 (1)
COSPAS-6 (2)
COSPAS-8
COSPAS-9

406 MHz
SARP
Global Mode
Local Mode
O
O
O
O
O
O
O
O

SARSAT-3
SARSAT-4
SARSAT-6
SARSAT-7
Notes:

O
NA
N
SARP
SARR

N
O
N
O

Operational.
Not applicable.
Not operational.
SAR processor.
SAR repeater.

N
O
N
O

406 MHz
SARR

121.5 MHz

NA
NA
NA
NA

O
O
O
O

O
N
O
O

SARR

O
O (3)
O
O

(1) - Limited operation in Southern hemisphere.


(2) - Limited operational status (single processing unit).
(3) - Some Electromagnetic Interference (EMI) degradation.

Table 2: COSPAS-SARSAT Ground Segment Status (August 2000)

Participant

LEOLUT
Name

MCC
Status

Participant

LEOLUT
Name

MCC
Status

Algeria

Ouargla

Japan

Yokohama

Australia

Albany
Bundaberg

Korea (Rep.of)

Taejon

New Zealand

Wellington

(1)

Brasilia (UT)
Manaus
Recife

Norway

Tromsoe

Pakistan

Lahore

UT

Churchill
Edmonton
Goose Bay

Peru

Callao

Russia
Punta Arenas
Santiago

Arkhangelsk
Moscow
Nakhodka

Chile
China

Beijing

Saudi Arabia

Jeddah

France

Toulouse

Singapore

Singapore

Hong Kong,
China

Hong Kong

South Africa

Cape Town (C)

Spain

Maspalomas

India

Bangalore
Lucknow

UK

Combe Martin

Indonesia

Jakarta

USA

Italy

Bari

ITDC

Keelung

Alaska
California
Guam
Hawaii
Puerto Rico
Texas

Brazil

Canada

Notes:

O
C

Operational.
Commissioned, subject to completion
of association with COSPAS-SARSAT.

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UT (1) -

UT

Under test.
LEOLUT is connected to the Australian MCC.

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COMSAR 5/6/1

Table 3: COSPAS-SARSAT GEOSAR Space Segment Status (August 2000)


Spacecraft

Launch Date

GOES-8 (GOES-East)

Position

Status

April 1994

75 W

In operation

GOES-10 (GOES-West)

April 1997

135 W

In operation

INSAT-2A

1992

74o E

In operation *

GOES-9

May 1995

106.7 W

In-orbit spare

GOES-11

May 2000

To be determined

In-orbit spare

Luch-M-2

2000

95 E

Projected

INSAT-3

2001

To be determined

Projected

MSG

2001

Projected

Note: * not commissioned into the COSPAS-SARSAT System

Table 4: COSPAS-SARSAT GEOSAR Ground Segment Status (August 2000)


Geostationary
Satellite

GEOLUTs Associated to Geostationary Satellites


Trenton,
Canada

Santiago,
Chile

GOES-8 (East)

GOES-10 (West)

Bangalore,
India

Wellington,
New Zealand

Maspalomas,
Spain

Combe Martin,
UK

Commissioned

Commissioned

INSAT-2A

Note: GEOLUTs in operation, formal commissioning into the COSPAS-SARSAT System pending.

COSPAS

INSAT

SARSAT

GOES

Figure 1: Illustration of combined 406 MHz LEOSAR and GEOSAR Systems


4
Nine models of beacons (aviation ELTs, maritime EPIRBs and personal PLBs) with the
capability to accept position data from internal or external navigation devices, essentially GPS
receivers, have received a COSPAS-SARSAT type approval certificate. Since the GEOSAR system
cannot use the Doppler processing technique to calculate the location of beacon alerts, these location
protocol beacons will enhance the GEOSAR distress alerts. They can also enhance LEOSAR alerts,
by providing location information even when insufficient data is available to enable the LUTs to
calculate locations using the Doppler technique (e.g. beacons at the fringe of the satellite visibility
area).

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Future phase-out of 121.5 MHz Satellite Alerting Service


5
121.5 MHz beacons are available at a very low cost, but this out-dated technology, which
cannot be improved easily, is the source of a very large number of false alerts (over 98% of
all 121.5 MHz COSPAS-SARSAT distress alerts). Although these devices are not accepted as part of
the GMDSS, they are installed on board a large number of aircraft and are used at sea on board small
craft and fishing vessels. The absence of an automatic capability for identifying 121.5 MHz alerts is
also a serious limitation of the 121.5 MHz system which significantly increases the workload of Rescue
Co-ordination Centres. This situation impacts on the efficiency of SAR operations and has led to a
request by IMO for a termination of COSPAS-SARSAT processing of 121.5 MHz signals.
6
In 1999, the Council of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) adopted
amendments to the annexes of the Convention on International Civil Aviation requiring all new aircraft
from 2002, and all aircraft from 2005, under the jurisdiction of the ICAO Convention, to carry an
Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) operating on 406 MHz, and 121.5 MHz for homing purpose.
The ICAO Council also agreed that COSPAS-SARSAT processing of 121.5 MHz ELTs could be
discontinued from 2008.
7
In response to the request of IMO, and following the agreement of ICAO, the
COSPAS-SARSAT Council decided at its CSC-23 Session, in October 1999, that future satellites from
COSPAS-13 (planned for launch from 2006) and SARSAT-14 (planned for launch from 2009) would
not carry the 121.5 MHz search and rescue repeater (SARR) instrument. However, it should be noted
that all COSPAS satellites to be launched prior to COSPAS-13, and all SARSAT satellites to be
launched prior to SARSAT-14 will be equipped with the 121.5 MHz SARR.
8
The COSPAS-SARSAT Council is expected to approve in October 2000 a comprehensive
Phase-Out Plan for 121.5/243 MHz satellite alerting services, with a planned cut-off date of 1 February
2009, to assist Participants in the System, as well as Administrations and users, in their preparation for
the discontinuation of this service. The planned cut-off date is subject to a review by 2005 of the issue
and the status of preparation. As part of the preparations for the phase-out of 121.5 MHz satellite
alerting, Administrations should develop information campaigns to ensure that all appropriate users,
regulatory bodies and manufacturing concerns are kept informed of the progress of the phase-out.
9
About 600,000 beacons operating at 121.5 MHz will have to be replaced either by 406 MHz
equipment or other means of alerting, prior to the planned cut-off date of the 121.5 MHz satellite
alerting service. Therefore, a major aspect of the phase-out preparation is to ensure the availability of
406 MHz ELTs/EPIRBs for use as replacement of the 121.5 MHz beacons, and the management of the
406 MHz beacon population growth prior to the cut-off date. Preliminary studies have indicated that
the COSPAS-SARSAT GEOSAR and LEOSAR systems have sufficient capacity to accommodate a
significant growth of the 406 MHz beacon population, provided the carrier frequency is adequately
spread over the assigned bandwidth (i.e. 406.0 - 406.1 MHz).
New frequency channels in the 406 MHz band
10
Recognizing the continued growth of the number of 406 MHz beacons and the impact
that this may have on the capacity of GEOSAR system due to a lack of frequency spreading,
the COSPAS-SARSAT Council decided that the carrier frequency of new models of operational
406 MHz beacons should be moved to 406.028 MHz. The modified beacon specification stipulates
that 406 MHz beacons submitted for type approval after 1 January 2000 can be set to operate at the
new frequency, and that after 1 January 2002 all beacons submitted for type approval must be set to
transmit at 406.028 MHz. Beacon models type approved before this date may continue to be
produced and operate at 406.025 MHz.

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COMSAR 5/6/1

11
To provide for future growth of the 406 MHz beacon population and ensure efficient
management of the use of available spectrum in the 406.0 - 406.1 MHz frequency band,
COSPAS-SARSAT is developing a 10-year 406 MHz Channel Assignment Plan. The plan will
define the frequency channels in which new beacon models submitted for COSPAS-SARSAT type
approval testing in future years will be required to operate. Its purpose is to ensure that the carrier
frequencies of beacon models in production will be appropriately spread in the 406.0 - 406.1 MHz
frequency band, and that the capacity of each channel is not exceeded.
12
IMOs technical requirements for the 406 MHz EPIRB signal are detailed in
ITU Recommendation ITU-R M.633.
In May 2000, the ITU Radiocommunication Assembly
approved revision 2 of ITU-R M.633.
The revised recommendation makes reference to
COSPAS-SARSAT document C/S T.001 (Specification for COSPAS-SARSAT 406 MHz Distress
Beacons, Issue 3 - Revision 2, dated October 1998) in respect of 406 MHz EPIRBs electrical
requirements. Therefore, 406 MHz EPIRBs produced to operate at 406.028 MHz conform to IMOs
technical requirements.
However, a contradiction in IMO Assembly Resolution A.810(19)
on performance standards for 406 MHz EPIRBs, which results from the amendment to the
ITU Recommendation, needs to be addressed (see other COSPAS-SARSAT document submitted
to COMSAR 5).
13
To allow for additional frequency channels in future, as will be provided for in the
COSPAS-SARSAT 406 MHz Channel Assignment Plan, a revision of C/S T.001 will be developed
for adoption by the COSPAS-SARSAT Council, so as to avoid the need for successive amendments
when new channels are opened for use. A subsequent revision to Recommendation ITU-R M.633
will be proposed to keep this recommendation aligned with the COSPAS-SARSAT specification.
Action requested of the Sub-Committee
14

The Sub-Committee is invited to note the information provided.

_____________

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