Last July, a sailboat with two people on board caught on fire several hundred miles off the coast of Jacksonville, Florida. Luckily for the crew, a NOAA satellite picked up the distress signal from their emergency beacon, enabling the U.S. Air Force and Coast Guard to rescue them.
They are among the 275 people rescued within the United States and its surrounding waters with the help of NOAA satellites last year. Of the 275 rescues, 186 were in water, 15 were from aviation incidents and 74 were on land using personal locator beacons, or PLBs.
NOAA satellites are part of the international Search and Rescue Satellite Aided Tracking System, or COSPAS-SARSAT, which uses a network of U.S. and international spacecraft to detect and locate distress signals quickly from emergency beacons aboard aircraft, boats and from handheld PLBs. Read more.