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A first for search and rescue from space

Written by  Thursday, 14 October 2021 07:01
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Between September 1982 and December 2020, at least 51 512 people were rescued on land and at sea with help from a network of Earth-orbiting satellites able to detect and locate emergency distress beacons.

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First and foremost, this experiment shows that when spacecraft carry powerful on-board computers, they are able to efficiently takeover some of the ‘thinking’ that is currently done on the ground. When they are not only acting as forwarding devices, picking up data and passing it on to more able people or machines on the ground, they can play a vital role in directly turning complex signals into actionable information. This successful demonstration clears the path for many future nanosatellites to join the current larger missions providing this essential service.

More broadly, when satellites are designed to be flexible, they can be configured to best suit the evolving needs of the societies beneath them. This will be especially important as we enter the era of the ‘Internet of Things’ – when the physical objects around us are connected to each other via the internet, creating a wide network of technologies able to connect and exchange data with implications for our homes, healthcare systems and even industry and global infrastructures.


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