ELT Location System Operation
1 - Emergency beacons are activated in situations of "grave and imminent danger" when lives are at risk.

ELT21.jpg (108047 bytes)   2 - Emergency
messages received by the
satellites are retransmitted to 38
automatic (unmanned)
ground stations worldwide.
These stations are called
Local User Terminals

3 - The received
messages including
computed location are
routed by telephone
connection to a Mission
Control Center (MCC) in
the country that operates
the LUT.

4 - After validation processing, alerts are then relayed depending on beacon location or country of registration (406 MHz beacons only) to either
another MCC or to the appropriate Rescue Coordination Center (RCC).

5 - RCCs in the United States are operated by the Coast Guard and the Air Force. The Air Force Rescue Coordination Center (AFRCC) at Langley AFB, VA coordinates all inland SAR activities in the lower 48 states. In most situations, the actual search and rescue is carried out by the Civil Air Patrol or local rescue services. The U.S. Coast Guard coordinates and conducts most maritime SAR missions from several RCCs located around the country.

5(in Alaska) - Alaskan inland rescues are handled differently. The Air Force operates an Alaskan Rescue Coordination Center (AKRCC) in Anchorage. Alaskan SAR is carried out by Air National Guard units and local authorities.

The U.S. portion of the Cospas-Sarsat System is operated by the NOAA SARSAT Office in Suitland, Maryland. The U.S. Mission Control Center (USMCC) is located there. Additional information on the System including the latest U.S. and worldwide lives saved can be obtained from this NOAA address.

More information about the Cospas-Sarsat System may be obtained from the international London based Cospas-Sarsat Secretariat.

Special thanks to David W. Affens of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center / Search and Rescue Mission office for assistance in developing this page.

If you would like more information about ELTs and EPIRBs (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons), try the following links:

What Is An ELT ??

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center SAR Mission Office

NASA Copa-Sarsat System

COPAS/SARSAT Emergency Beacons


AFRCC (Air Force Rescue Coordination Center)

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