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June 19th, 2018

Thales MEOLUT Next to Bring Distressed Support to Canada's Participation in COSPAS-SARSAT

In a related story to yesterday's Satnews.com news item "Thales Alenia Space Reveals a Breakthrough Technology for Search & Rescue Satellite Solutions + Togo Signs On...," Canada has awarded Thales Canada Phase II of the MEOSAR (Medium Earth Orbit Search and Rescue) Ground Segment contract.

MEOSAR will support Canada’s ability to respond quickly and effectively to distress signals from land, air and sea from coast-to-coast-to-coast; enabling Canada to meet its obligations under the International COSPAS-SARSAT Program Agreement. The contract includes the procurement of two MEOLUTs and maintenance services for five years with options for an additional five years.

Using Thales Alenia Space’s powerful and compact MEOLUT Next phased array solution, Canada will benefit from the world’s first space borne search and rescue system of this type. Thales Alenia Space designs, operates and delivers satellite-based systems for governments and institutions, helping them position and connect anyone or anything, everywhere. Since its commissioning in 2016, MEOLUT Next has delivered unrivaled performance, detecting distress signals more than 5,000km away.

This new capability saves lives. On July 2, 2017, at 6:30 a.m., 70 kilometres off the coast of Sardinia, a 12 meter sailboat with three people aboard triggered their COSPAS/SARSAT beacon when the vessel's rudder broke and the engine failed. The craft's VHF radio was out of reception range — the sailors quickly realized they were in a critical situation with waves more than four meters high and the wind blowing at 40 knots. MEOLUT Next was able to receive and process their distress signals in less than five minutes, providing accurate positioning to authorities. An airplane identified the boat less than two hours after the beacon was triggered and a helicopter airlifted the crew to safety, saving all three lives.

COSPAS/SARSAT is an intergovernmental organization founded by Canada, the United States, Russia and France. In operation in 43 countries around the world, this satellite-based search and rescue distress alert detection and information distribution system is best known for detecting and locating emergency beacons activated by aircraft, ships and backcountry hikers in distress. Today, some 500,000 ships and 150,000 aircraft are equipped with COSPAS/SARSAT distress beacons. To date, the COSPAS-SARSAT service has saved more than 37,000 lives.

Conventional MEOLUT (Medium Earth Orbit Local User Terminal) systems use large parabolic antennas and are limited by how many satellite signals they can receive. Thales Alenia Space's MEOLUT Next solution is compact, measuring less than six square meters, with the ability to track up to 30 satellites, significantly enhancing the distress beacon detection rate while expanding the coverage zone. Since there are no mechanical components, hardware maintenance costs are the lowest on the market.

Jerry McLean, Managing Director and VP, Thales Canada, said that the company is proud to deliver world class solutions that will make life better and keep us safer. From complex C4ISR systems to integrated maritime C3 and diverse aerospace solutions, this contract further reflects Thales’ continued commitment to Canadian innovation.

Philippe Blatt, VP Navigation France at Thales Alenia Space, added that this solution will meet and exceed Canada’s MEOSAR expectations, offering Canada a decisive technology for those decisive moments. MEOLUT Next is the only solution in the world capable of processing second-generation beacons in real time. The product's operational efficiency was recently recognized by Space & Satellite Professionals International (SSPI) for its humanitarian contributions.

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