News Release from: TUV Product Service
Subject: Cospas-Sarsat Secretariatto testing
Edited by the Electronicstalk Editorial Team on 16 February 2007

Safety beacons tested for compliance

TUV Product Service is one of only five type-approved laboratories worldwide that are authorised by the Cospas-Sarsat Secretariatto test 406MHz beacons.

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In 2010, 30 satellites circling the earth at an altitude of around 24,000km will herald a new era in satellite navigation. Galileo, Europe's contribution to global navigation, will offer a hitherto unknown level of precision and reliability. But already today, distress beacons, which will use the Galileo system for global search and rescue in the future, are undergoing a stringent testing and certification process at TUV Product Service in the UK.

Galileo is a joint venture between the European Union and the European Space Agency and, once fully deployed, should revolutionise the way we use precise timing and location signals delivered from space.

It is the first satellite-based navigation system developed for the civil sector and has the infrastructure for a wide range of applications that go beyond simple positioning systems.

Integration with other technical systems, such as mobile phone networks, will facilitate completely new applications.

One system which will undoubtedly use Galileo is Cospas-Sarsat.

The objective of the Cospas-Sarsat (Cosmicheskaya Systiema Poiska Avariynich Sudov - Search and Rescue Satellite Aided Tracking) system is to support all organisations in the world with responsibility for Search and Rescue (SAR) operations, whether at sea, in the air, or on land.

The Cospas-Sarsat system is designed to provide distress, alert and location data to assist search and rescue operations, using spacecraft and ground facilities to detect and locate the signals of distress beacons operating on 406 or 121.5MHz.

(The 121.5MHz frequency will be discontinued in 2009.) The position of the distress and other related information is forwarded by the responsible mission control centre (MCC) to the appropriate national Search and Rescue authorities.

There are three main types of distress beacon currently in use, with a fourth (SSAS) being introduced.

These are: an emergency position indicating radio beacon (EPIRB), designed for use at sea by ships and craft in distress; an emergency locator transmitter (ELT), designed for use by aircraft in distress; a personal locator beacon (PLB), designed for use by individuals who may need to be rescued by the SAR authorities (eg mountain climbers, walkers, yachtsmen); and a ships security alert system (SSAS), designed for use by ships in danger of, for example, piracy on the high seas.

Galileo, the new European satellite navigation system, will offer an alternative to the GPS system currently in use in many Cospas-Sarsat beacons by offering much greater levels of accuracy.

The new system will allow positions to be pinpointed to a matter of metres and the degree of accuracy will increase to up to 10cm when used in combination with other terrestrial positioning systems.

Another benefit of Galileo is that it will work better in higher latitudes, such as Northern Europe, than the only existing service, the US GPS system, so that pinpointing of positions will be even more precise.

'As the equipment is designed to assist in life-threatening situations, it is important that it works first time, especially as it may well be sitting unused for long periods of time, sometimes in adverse weather conditions such as on the deck on a ship exposed to salt water', explains TUV SUD's Jean-Louis Evans.

TUV Product Service therefore performs a series of tests which check RF (radio frequency) parameters, including frequency stability, power output, antenna tests, battery life, satellite tests and the checking of the satellite navigation system.

These tests ensure that the beacon signals are compatible with the SAR system receiving and processing equipment, that the beacons to be deployed do not degrade the nominal system performance and that the beacon encoded position data is correct.

Other tests are necessary in order to meet national requirements.

TUV Product Service in the UK, part of the Germany-based TUV SUD group, is one of only five type-approved laboratories worldwide that are authorised by the Cospas-Sarsat Secretariat (based in Canada) to test 406MHz beacons as part of the beacon certification programme.

Only recently the regional initiative of the German Land of Lower Saxony, GAUSS, won the first EU-wide tender for the preparation of certification documentation for Galileo.

As one of the key partners in the initiative, TUV SUD will be involved in the preparation of a 'green book' and, within this scope, contribute comprehensive know-how and experience in system and equipment certification.

Additionally, NavCert - a joint venture of TUV SUD and Ocean - has applied for further projects within the scope of the Galileo system.

The demand for satellite navigation devices will increase dramatically in the near future.

Forecasts predict that there will be 2.5 billion Galileo users worldwide by the year 2020.

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