Australia and New Zealand Sign Contract to Boost Maritime Safety Response with Satellite Technology

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The logo of Germany's biggest commercial broadcaster ProSiebenSat.1 Media AG on a satellite dish at the headquarters in Unterfoehring, near Munich in this February 26, 2014 file photo. REUTERS/Michaela Rehle/Files (GERMANY - Tags: MEDIA BUSINESS) REUTERS/Michaela Rehle/Files

Australia and New Zealand have recently signed an agreement to improve both countries' emergency response operations in the Pacific. According to Maritime New Zealand, it has signed a contract with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority to construct two satellite receiving stations to detect signals from MEOSAR or medium-Earth orbit search and rescue satellites.

The proposed locations for the new satellites are in Western Australia and New Zealand's central North Island. A statement from Maritime New Zealand revealed that low-Earth orbit satellites will be phased out within four years. They will be replaced by MEOSAR satellites which orbit at about 20,000 kilometres above the Earth.

According to a Global Post report, the New Zealand location will have six satellite dishes. Maritime authorities expect the receiving station to be ready for operations by 2017. Compared to the current five low-Earth orbit satellites, 16 MEOSAR satellites were proven to be quicker and more accurate in receiving signals. MEOSAR satellites can identify beacon locations with great accuracy.

Experts said the technology will improve in the next five years since they predict MEOSAR satellites will be more than 50 by then. The increase will make it possible for authorities to view several satellites all at once.

Maritime authorities explained that beacon signals will go through the MEOSAR satellites to the ground stations in New Zealand and Australia. The signals will then be processed by the mission control centre in Canberra and sent to Maritime New Zealand's Rescue Coordination Centre to prompt search-and-rescue operations.

Maritime New Zealand Director Keith Manch said in a statement that the joint investment between the two countries in the building of satellites is proof of cooperation which is important to operations.

The new satellites could be vital in major search-and-rescue operations in the Pacific. Incidents like plane crashes and ship disasters may be handled more efficiently.

Australian Maritime Safety Authority chief Mick Kinley said New Zealand and Australian ground tracking stations will work together to "achieve overlapping coverage" of search and rescue regions. 

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