This image depicts the operation of the international Search and Rescue Satellite Aided Tracking system, called COSPAS-SARSAT.

Alaska Tops in 2009 Satellite-Aided Rescues

With 49, the state was ahead of Florida in rescues assisted by NOAA’s search-and-rescue satellites and Russia’s Cospas spacecraft. In all, the system helped to rescue 195 people last year in the United States and surrounding waters.

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's search-and-rescue satellites, in concert with Russia's Cospas spacecraft, helped to rescue 195 people last year in the United States and surrounding waters. The satellites located downed pilots, mariners, and stranded hikers by detecting a distress signal from an emergency beacon and relaying that data to responders on the ground.

The Search and Rescue Satellite Aided Tracking system, called COSPAS-SARSAT, performs this function, tracking signals from aircraft, boats, and individuals who have personal locator beacons. The NOAA satellites in the system are polar-orbiting or in geostationary orbits.

"NOAA satellite weather and ocean data help us detect changes in weather and climate, which is critically important to our everyday lives and economy," said Mary E. Kizca, assistant administrator for NOAA's Satellite and Information Service. "It's a little-known fact that these valuable instruments also made the difference between life and death for 195 people last year."

The SARSAT Mission Control Center is based at NOAA's Satellite Operations Facility in Suitland, Md. COSPAS-SARSAT has been in operation for 28 years and is credited with aiding more than 27,000 rescues worldwide, including 6,232 in and near the United States. Alaska had the most rescues in 2009, with 49, followed by Florida with 39 and Texas with 32.

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