SUNNYVALE, Calif., March 28, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Thirty years ago today the premier launch of the Advanced TIROS-N satellite series carried a very special hosted payload aboard – the first Search and Rescue (SAR) payload on a U.S. satellite. The satellite, NOAA-E, was designed and built at the Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) (then RCA Astrospace Division) facility in East Windsor, N.J.
To date, over 33,000 lives have been saved as a direct result of the Search and Rescue Satellite Aided Tracking (SARSAT) capability, and more than 325,000 emergency beacons have been registered in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) database. As of 2012, 26 countries were providers of ground segments for the Cospas-Sarsat system, while 11 countries were user states.
In the midst of the Cold War, SAR hosted payloads were sent into space as the result of an agreement signed in 1979 by Canada, France, the United States, and the former Soviet Union that established the International Cospas-Sarsat Programme – a satellite-based SAR distress alert detection, location, and information distribution system designed to save lives. Cospas-Sarsat provides the alerts to search and rescue authorities worldwide. It was a Russian navigation satellite launched nine months earlier – on June 29, 1982 – that carried the first Cospas SAR payload into space."While NOAA's weather satellites have indirectly been saving lives for over 50 years by making possible timely forecasts of dangerous weather, the initiation of the Cospas-Sarsat Programme originated the use of satellite technology that enabled direct intervention in the rescue of people in distress," said Mark Valerio, vice president and general manager of Military Space at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company (LMSSC) in Sunnyvale, Calif., who also served as the SAR mechanical integration lead at East Windsor during the Cospas-Sarsat program. "It was NASA's vision decades ago, with its 'missions of opportunity' that underscored the value of hosted payloads, and the SARSAT program was an early pioneer," Valerio continued. "Utilizing available space on satellites for small additional payloads added enormous new capabilities, and fostered innovation in satellite missions. Some believe that the notion of hosted payloads is still in its infancy, but our company has been building and integrating them for nearly three decades now and we've come to appreciate the benefits, and understand well the challenges and the risks."