When NASA’s “Artemis” manned mission is launched for the first time, astronauts will be equipped with separate second-generation GPS emergency beacons. Developed by the space agency’s Search and Rescue Center (SAR) program for the Global Satellite Search and Rescue System (Cospas-Sarsat), the beacon will provide returning space travelers with faster and more accurate emergency beacons, and the technology will be available to the public within a few years.
The development of GPS systems and other forms of satellite navigation in the United States not only revolutionized the way travel was conducted, but also had a huge impact on many other areas, particularly in the development of small emergency beacons, which can be used almost anywhere in the world.
In 1979, the United States, Canada, France and the Soviet Union established the non-profit intergovernmental Cospas-Sarsat program to develop satellite and ground station systems to detect emergency beacons and alert relevant rescue services. Today, the program has expanded to 45 countries and organizations, and with the help of NASA’s SAR office at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, the program is undergoing a major upgrade.
To improve accuracy and response times, THE U.S. GPS AND OTHER GLOBAL NAVIGATION SATELLITE SYSTEMS (GNSSS) ARE BEING UPGRADED TO INCLUDE SEARCH AND RESCUE INSTRUMENTS IN HIGHER EARTH ORBITS. Their high viewing angles allow them to observe larger Earth regions and detect beacons more quickly than low-orbit constellations.
According to NASA, about 70 satellites will have instruments that support multilateral measurements, a navigation technology that uses signals to reach multiple receivers to quickly zero at very high accuracy on the transmitter, even if the signal is a radio burst. This reduces the search range from a radius of several kilometers to a few meters.
However, this higher accuracy means developing new beacons that can take advantage of the technology. The new second-generation beacon in the SAR office is designed to preload the distress transfer within the first minute after it is activated and then reduce it as the transmission continues. They will also send not only the embedded identity information of the beacon, but also the data from the user. NASA says this could save battery life and send better data to rescue teams.
The beacons will be on the market within a few years, first in the United States, as the necessary ground station upgrades have been completed. However, the first person to apply the equipment on site will be the first astronauts to return from the moon to the “Artemis” mission. With the help of NASA’s Johnson Space Center, the new technology will be used in the Advanced Next Generation Emergency Locator (ANGEL) beacon, which will be mounted in the astronaut’s life jacket.
Cody Kelly, an engineer in life saving and rescue systems at Johnson Space Center, said: “Under normal circumstances, the Orion crew capsule would be pulled onto the deck of the spacecraft, and the astronauts would be evacuated by military and NASA crews. If the crew needs to go under water for any reason, they will be equipped with our life rings, rafts and ANGEL beacons to ensure their rapid return. “
In addition, the SAR Office and the University of Maryland College Park will test a prototype device that will allow drones to lock beacon signals to help with search and rescue efforts, especially at sea.