Search and Rescue (SAR)/Galileo Service

Reaching you faster when every minute matters

Search And Rescue (SAR) operations involve locating and helping people in distress. Launched as part of the Galileo Initial Services, Galileo is the first GNSS constellation offering global SAR capability. Declared operational on January 21, 2020, the service is available at sea, in the mountains, across the desert and in the air inside the SAR/Galileo Service Coverage area, this essential Galileo service helps operators respond to a distress signal faster and more efficiently.

How the SAR/Galileo service works

The SAR/Galileo service is comprised of two components:

  1. an automatic forward link distress alert
  2. a unique return link message that informs the user that their distress transmission alert has been received (planned to be available soon)

Now fully integrated into COSPAS-SARSAT system, the Search and Rescue Transponder on Galileo satellites picks up signals emitted from distress beacons in the 406-406.1 MHz band and broadcast this information to dedicated ground stations (MEOLUTs) in the L-band at 1544.1 MHz. Once these signals are detected and the beacons located by the MEOLUTs, COSPAS-SARSAT Mission Control Centres (MCC) will receive the beacon location information and distribute the data to the relevant rescue centres worldwide.




The SAR/Galileo service is Europe’s contribution to the upgrade of COSPAS-SARSAT, an international satellite-based SAR distress alert detection and information distribution system. Established in 1979 by Canada, France, the USA and the former Soviet Union, it is used to detect and locate emergency beacons activated by aircraft, ships and individuals. It provides accurate, reliable and timely alert and location data to help SAR operators find and help people in distress.

COSPAS-SARSAT operates through a satellite system maintained and coordinated by its participants. This system detects distress alert transmissions from radio beacons that comply with COSPAS-SARSAT specifications and standards, determines their location, and provides the information to SAR teams.

Currently, 43 countries and organisations participate in the operation and management of the COSPAS-SARSAT system. COSPAS-SARSAT also cooperates with various international organisations including the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

COSPAS-SARSAT System Overview

COSPAS-SARSAT System Overview


What it means for you

With Galileo and the increased positioning accuracy it provides integrated into COSPAS-SARSAT, users benefit from:

  • a reduction in the time it takes to detect a person at sea or in the mountains from one hour to just 10 minutes after the distress beacon is activated
  • improved localisation of the distress beacon from 10 km to less than 5 km
  • increased availability
  • better detection of signals in difficult terrain and weather conditions
  • a return link that ensures users that their distress signal has been received

In other words, thanks to the improvements offered by the SAR/Galileo service, more lives are being saved. Read more about how Galileo satellites save lives.

Location Performances - SAR/Galileo Initial Service Location

Location Performances - SAR/Galileo Initial Service Location

Updated: Jan 29, 2020