The Galileo Search and Rescue ground facilities are now upgraded for MEOSAR Full Operational Capability performance

18 December 2020
The pioneering Galileo Return Link Service offers an important psychological boost to people in distress assuring them that help is on the way.

The latest upgrades carried out on the SAR/Galileo Local User Terminals of Spain, Cyprus and Norway, earlier in the summer are helping the International COSPAS-SARSAT Programme transition towards MEOSAR completion.

Since the declaration of its Initial Services in December 2016, Galileo has enabled a multitude of new solutions across all market segments. One of the system’s unique capability that is being provided uninterrupted since day one is the Search and Rescue (SAR) service together with the pioneering Galileo Return Link Service. Galileo’s contribution to the Medium Earth Orbit Satellites Search and Rescue System (MEOSAR) managed by the International COSPAS-SARSAT Programme translates into 2000 lives saved per year. 

Galileo SAR ground infrastructure supporting the "invisible’’ space segment 

From emitting a distress signal to being rescued by emergency responders, the Galileo signals travel 23,000 km from the ground to space and back. When a person in distress activates a Galileo enabled emergency beacon, the Galileo satellites capture the signal and transmit it to three ground stations strategically deployed across Europe called ‘’MEOLUTs’’ (Medium Earth Orbit Local User Terminals) which calculate the precise location of the person in distress. Once the location is determined, it is transmitted to different Mission Control Centres (MCCs) around the world that coordinate the rescue operations. It is only when the MCCs are informed about a potential incident that the Galileo Return Link Service is activated. The user then receives back via the Galileo satellites a confirmation message that their position is known and that help is on the way.

The European MEOLUTs are an integral part of the Galileo SAR ground segment. The three MEOLUTs based in Larnaca (Cyprus), Maspalomas (Spain) and Spitsbergen (Norway) are equipped with 12 measurement antennas (4 antennas per station). For a more robust performance and coverage, the twelve antennas are further coordinated and optimized by a specific facility called MEOLUT Tracking Coordination Facility deployed in Toulouse (France).

MEOLUTs update bringing the Medium Earth Orbit SAR System one step closer to Full Operational Capability (FOC)

The MEOSAR system offers many advantages to SAR operations such as near real-time worldwide coverage and faster detection and localisation services to all end users. To support the transition towards the FOC of the MEOSAR system, the European MEOLUTs were upgraded during the course of the past months and an extensive test campaign was conducted. The results met the operational, performance and functional requirements specified in the COSPAS-SARSAT documentation to allow operations at a MEOSAR FOC performance level. The results were reviewed by a COSPAS-SARSAT dedicated expert working group in October which recommended the approval.

The European MEOLUTs are the first to achieve such level of performance. This milestone coupled with an upgrade at the Mission Control Centers in Cyprus, Spain and Norway will be of big relevance when COSPAS-SARSAT determines MEOSAR’s readiness to Full Operational Capability.

The Larnaca MEOLUT facility has been installed on Makarios Teleport site. It is an isolated area close to the southern shore of Cyprus between the coastal towns of Limassol and Larnaca. It is operated by Cyprus Telecommunication Authorities and is connected to the Cyprus Mission Control Centre. 

The Maspalomas MEOLUT facility has been installed on the Maspalomas Space Station site on the Spanish Canary island of Gran Canaria. It is operated by INTA (National Institute for Aerospace Technology in Spain) and is connected to the Spanish Mission Control Centre.

The Spitsbergen MEOLUT facility has been installed on the SvalSat Satellite Ground Station site at the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard. It is operated by Kongsberg Satellite Services and is connected to the Norwegian Mission Control Centre.




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Updated: May 16, 2023