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For the successful development, transfer and commercialization of SARSAT, an inter-institutional and international search and rescue collaboration that has helped save the lives of 22,000 people worldwide
Canadian Space Agency
Communications Research Centre Canada
Major Randy Rodgers
National Search and Rescue Secretariat
The story of iconic Search and Rescue Satellite-Aided Tracking (SARSAT) technology is a testament to Canada's prowess in satellite communications. As legendary as it is honoured, SARSAT is directly credited with the rescue since 1982 of more than 22,000 people worldwide, including 1,000 Canadians. Developed initially by the Communications Research Centre (CRC) in the mid-1970s, SARSAT has grown into an international network that encompasses 40 nations and has generated more than $100 million in sales for Canadian companies in the last 25 years. Before the satellite era, search and rescue efforts in maritime and aviation emergencies depended largely on calculated guesswork hampered by difficult terrain, vast reaches of open water and hazardous weather conditions. Thanks to SARSAT technology, rescuers can now pinpoint the location of distress beacon signals emanating from a system of more than one million emergency locator transmitters (ELTs) dotted across the globe.
From the outset, SARSAT was a textbook example of the value of symbiotic partnerships between federal departments, the private sector and international collaborators. One of the many highlights in its storied development occurred in the midst of the Cold War when CRC brokered an agreement with the Russian Space Agency that resulted in the creation in 1979 of the enduring Cospas-SARSAT alliance.