French teams participating in the Cospas-Sarsat satellite-based international search-and-rescue (SAR) programme sprang into action with those at French Joint Space Command (CIE) as soon as they were informed of the disappearance on 19 May of EgyptAir flight MS804 in the Mediterranean on its way from Paris to Cairo.
The aircraft’s Cospas-Sarsat emergency locator transmitter was activated and distress signals were intercepted by the SAR payloads on the Galileo and GPS satellites that are part of the new pre-operational Cospas-Sarsat MEOSAR system. These data were picked up by the ground station in Toulouse and the three ground stations operated by the European Commission, then relayed to the French mission control centre (MCC) at the Toulouse Space Centre for processing by CNES’s engineers. The aircraft’s position when it transmitted the distress signal was thus pinpointed using algorithms developed and run by CNES. Close coordination between teams at CNES, the CIE, which analysed the satellite data acquired from 20 May, and Météo France, which provided the drift models, enabled investigators to guide search teams in the crash zone, which include vessels deployed by the French Navy, and thus detect signals from the aircraft’s data recorders.
The MEOSAR system that provided these precious data is in development and set to complement the current Cospas-Sarsat system in the near future. CNES is a key player in the Cospas-Sarsat programme representing France alongside the United States, Russia, Canada and 38 other nations and organizations.
After this announcement, CNES President Jean-Yves Le Gall commented: “The cooperation between CNES and French Joint Space Command has provided precious assistance to our armed forces in carrying out their mission following this dramatic accident. This cooperation gives us every reason to forge even closer operational ties with the Ministry of Defence. Moreover, this event underlines the value of the Galileo system to citizens in Europe and around the world, with half of the satellite constellation still to be deployed.”