ECA Group & Thales Alenia Space to strengthen the Global COSPAS/SARSAT system

Friday, June 21 2019
ECA GROUP is awarded by THALES ALENIA SPACE to supply High Performance Frequency Transpositions to equip Local User Terminals (LUT) as a part of the global COSPAS/SARSAT system for SAR (Search and Rescue)  operational missions.


Cooperating further for Search & Rescue (SAR) missions within the scope of COSPAS/SARSAT system

To improve the reaction timing of rescue organizations  - when an accident or a sudden technical default occurs on an aircraft or a ship - ECA GROUP and Thales Alenia Space worked alongside to offer a breakthrough technology for Search & Rescue satellite solutions.

Called MEOLUT Next, this solution is to be deployed within the scope of the global COSPAS/SARSAT system. MEOLUT Next technology will optimize data processing time and enhance the precision of the accident's location in order to better and faster alert the rescue teams.

This innovative solution integrates ECA GROUP's cutting-edge technologies and expertise in radio frequency. 

As part of a contract, ECA GROUP will supply several systems to Thales Alenia Space for its ground stations located around the world: Canada, France,Togo, USA or many European countries.


The MEOLUT Next - Local User Terminal (LUT)



This unique solution, based on Thales Alenia Space Local User Terminal (LUT), integrates ECA GROUP’s state-of-the-art technology with radio frequency blocks. At the heart of this innovation is the use of small-sized active antennas.


Each of these antennas is equipped with ultra-performant radio frequency blocks developed and produced by ECA GROUP for upstream optimized data processing. Signals are received in the form of frequencies. To be analysed, these signals are going through antenna using patches to sort out the frequencies received.

According to their frequency in hertz, the signals are then sorted out between L or S bands, which are range of frequencies used to for telecommunication purposes. Separating the signals between thoses bands and analyse it, helps to determine the localisation of the signal.

To do so, ECA GROUP equipment converts the frequencies of the patches in L and S bands to recombine them with a high high precision and accuracy. Doing so, it allows to simulateously analyse all the RF signals received, and thus to reduce the processing time.

The main avantages of such solution are: 

  • Optimized tracking and much larger coverage area: The MEOLUT Next solution, with a footprint of less than 10 m², can track up to 30 satellites, where other competing solutions receive only 6 satellites with 6 large satellite dishes in an area comparable to a football field.
  • High detection speed: In addition to widening the coverage area, it significantly increases the detection rate of distress beacons.
  • Cost-effectiveness: Since these antennas have no mechanical elements, the associated maintenance cost is the most competitive on the market.
  • Responsiveness & accuracy: Thanks to MEOSAR service*, - satellites in medium earth orbit -  operational since end of 2018, distress beacons can be detected even faster and with a greater location accuracy.


* Until now, the COSPAS/SARSAT system relied on observation satellites in both low Earth orbit (LEOSAR) and geostationary Earth orbit (GEOSAR), which will be reaching end-of-life towards 2020. Satellites in medium Earth orbit, MEOSAR, with secondary payloads mounted on GPS, Galileo and Glonass positioning system satellites, will then take over, improving performance, precision and responsiveness. The satellites replacement will enable indicating the position of an endangered item in less than 10 minutes (against 2 hours for the LEO and GEO generations). Furthermore, the position-determination accuracy will improve to 200 meters, versus 5 kilometers previously. Another major advantage is that distress beacons in movement (typically in aircraft) can be detected, which was not the case so far. MEOSAR services will start operating by the end of 2018, and will be able to detect the locations of aircraft in trouble during their flight


How does the COSPAS/SARSAT system work ?

COSPAS/SARSAT is an intergovernmental organization founded by Canada, the United States, Russia and France. In operation since 1985, it provides a free global Search and Rescue service, using the infrastructures from 43 countries worldwide. Today, some 500,000 ships and 150,000 aircraft are fitted with COSPAS/SARSAT distress beacons, allowing to use this service. It is estimated to have saved more than 37,000 lives since the outset.

When a distress beacon like ECA GROUP's ELiTe Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT), is triggered manually or automatically, it emits a distress signal on the frequency 406 MHz. This signal is:

  • Intercepted by surveillance satellites
  • Relayed to a ground Local User Terminal (LUT)
  • The signal is processed and the position of the transmitting beacon (boat, aircraft) is calculated
  • Information is sent to the Mission Control Center (MCC) which then contacts the intervention teams of the Rescue Coordination Center (RCC).
COSPAS/SARSAT system overview





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