Here's what weather satellites and superheroes have in common

Satellites assist in search-and-rescue missions

By Samara Cokinos - Meteorologist
NOAA

File photo.

ORLANDO, Fla. - Weather satellites provide vital information to meteorologists to put together forecasts, but they also doubles as The Avengers. Well, kind of.

The satellites do more than help people stay safe during inclement weather; they also aid in search-and-rescue missions.

In 2018, a total of 340 people were rescued by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellites. More than 43,000 rescues worldwide have been credited to the satellites since the inception of the Search and Rescue Satellite Aided Tracking System program in the early '80s. The program uses NOAA satellites to locate a distress signal from aviators, mariners or recreational enthusiasts.

Here's how the science works:

  • The initial distress signal is sent by someone in need of rescue from an emergency beacon either in an aircraft or boat, or from a personal handheld locator.
  • The SARSAT system uses NOAA satellites in low-earth and geostationary orbits, in addition to GPS satellites in medium-earth orbit, to relay distress signals.
  • The signal is relayed to the SARSAT Mission Control Center in Maryland and then to the Rescue Coordination Centers operated by the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Coast Guard.

According to NOAA, beacon owners are required to register their devices with the agency. This helps with faster and more accurate response times, as well as guards against false alarms.

While satellites don't don superhero capes or wear masks, it's safe to say there's always friend in space ready to inform on-the-ground heroes to the rescue.

And that is out of this world.

 

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