MEOSAR earth station

MEOSAR earth station (or MEOLUT) with the towers of Taupo Radio's receive site in the distance
MEOSAR earth station (or MEOLUT) with the towers of Taupo Radio’s receive site in the distance, Oct 2016.
Photo: Tony Graham

MEOSAR stands for Medium-altitude Earth Orbit Search And Rescue and is a system of satellites designed to pick up signals from distress beacons.

A MEOLUT (MEOSAR Local User Terminal) or earth station is located next to the Taupo Radio receiver site in the central North Island of New Zealand. It opened in December 2016, replacing a station using Low Earth Orbiting satellites.

The MEOSAR site east of Taupo
The MEOSAR site east of Taupo, 2016. Photo: Maritime NZ
Rescue Coordination Centre Manager Mike Hill (left) with Maritime NZ Director Keith Manch as the ribbon is cut to mark the completion of the new earth station
Rescue Coordination Centre Manager Mike Hill (left) with Maritime NZ Director Keith Manch as the ribbon is cut to mark the completion of the new earth station. Photo: Maritime NZ.

This MEOLUT has six antennas, each one tracking a different MEOSAR satellite in orbit between 19,000 and 24,000km above the Earth to relay EPIRB, PLB, and ELT alerts to Canberra. Alerts in the NZ Search and Rescue Region are then relayed to the Rescue Coordination Centre in Wellington. All this happens in about five minutes from the distress beacon activation.

  • EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon) used by mariners
  • (Personal Locator Beacon) used by hunters, trampers, mountain bikers, mountaineers
  • ELT (Emergency Locator Transmitter) carried on aircraft

– Tony Graham

Entrance to the MEOSAR earth station
Entrance to the MEOSAR earth station, Oct 2016. Photo: Tony Graham

2 Nov 2015: New MEOSAR satellite station near Reporoa to speed up rescues