VICTORIA, British Columbia —  The Canadian government has selected MDA to design, build and deliver 10 search-an- rescue repeaters for its Medium Earth Orbit Search and Rescue system to be hosted on the U.S. Air Force’s next-generation GPS satellites.

The Medium Earth Orbit Search and Rescue (MEOSAR) system repeater contract is worth 39 million Canadian ($28 million). It was announced May 10.

The Canadian government decided in 2015 to proceed with the MEOSAR project to provide search and rescue repeaters for the USAF’s next generation Global Positioning System satellites. Once in orbit 22,000 kilometers above the Earth, a MEOSAR repeater will be able to detect signals from emergency beacons and retransmit the signals to receiver stations on the ground. The emergency messages can then be sent to appropriate authorities so that people in danger can be quickly located and rescued. Mike Greenley, MDA’s group president, said once qualified as operational, the system will dramatically improve both the speed and location accuracy for detecting beacons, and as a result, greatly enhance the coordination and dispatch of search and rescue teams to help people in distress.”

MEOSAR will provide a more capable system to COSPAS-SARSAT (Cosmicheskaya Sistyema Poiska Avariynich Sudov – Search and Rescue Satellite Aided Tracking), according to Canadian military officers. COSPAS-SARSAT is an international satellite-based search and rescue distress alert detection system established by Canada, France, the former Soviet Union, and the U.S. in 1979. It is credited with saving more than 33,000 lives since its inception.

Canadian government officials said  MEOSAR will reduce the time it takes to detect and locate a distress signal from an hour to around five minutes. The repeaters will also improve accuracy in locating a distress beacon.

The first GPS 3F satellite is expected to be available for launch in 2026 and will host the first Canadian-made MEOSAR repeaters, Department of National Defence spokeswoman Jessica Lamirande told SpaceNews. The first repeaters are expected to be fully functional by early 2027, she added.

The contract with MDA will run until Feb. 1, 2029. The Canadian government may extend the contract to Aug. 1, 2034, if it decides to acquire an additional 12 repeaters.

David Pugliese covers space policy and developments in the space industry in Canada. He has a bachelor’s degree in political science from Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario, and a degree in journalism from Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario.