This page contains philatelic information on the COSPAS / SARSAT program. Catalog numbers, years of issue, and notes on the satellites featured are given when available. If readers know of additional information or images, please contact the authors using the e-mail addresses at the bottom of this page.

The SARSAT program is operated by Canada, USA, and France, while the COSPAS system is operated by Russia. Thirty-two other nations also participate in the program. The two satellite systems work together, receiving signals from emergency radio beacons and relaying them to ground stations which process the signals and calculate the locations of the beacons. This allows search and rescue authorities to send rescue missions to those locations.

The necessary COSPAS/SARSAT equipment has been placed aboard various satellites:

  1. US ATN (NOAA) weather satellites (beginning with NOAA-8, launched in March 1983). See numbered SARSAT missions.
  2. European MetOp weather satellites (beginning with MetOp-A, launched in October 2006). See numbered SARSAT missions.
  3. Several different US geostationary weather satellites (beginning with GOES-7, launched in February 1987)
  4. Russian Nadezhda navigation satellites (beginning with Kosmos-1383, launched in June 1982)

Worldwide, over 20,000 persons have been rescued by the COSPAS/SARSAT system since 1982. Unlike the Argos Data Collection and Location System intended for environmental data and limited other use, SARSAT is designed specifically for the rescue of persons in distress. However, many of the system characteristics are similar, such as global coverage provided by the use of the same polar-orbiting weather satellites to collect and transfer the data to ground stations. Reference:

Launch covers
(including anniversary-of-launch covers, and launch-related event covers)
(farther below)
Other postal items
(stamps, souvenir sheets, aerogrammes, postal cards, etc.)
(immediately below)
COSPAS-like antennas1

Below is a list of COSPAS / SARSAT program on postal items (stamps, souvenir sheets, aerogrammes, postal cards, etc.).

CountryCatalog NumberType of ItemYear of IssueNotes on Content
Cambodia782 (Mi860)1987Kosmos-1383/1447/1574 type / Nadezhda satellite, COSPAS acronym
Cambodia875 (BL160)On stamp of SS11988Nadezhda satellite, COSPAS acronym
Canada2111 (Mi2280-2283)MS8 (2x 2111 (a-d))2005NOAA and Nadezhda satellites, "Search and Rescue"
Canada2111a-d fdcStrip of four stamps on FDC
Pakistan1150 leaflet (Mi1378 leaflet)FDC leaflet back, also front2011"Search & Rescue Satellite System (COSPAS - SARSAT)"
Russia (USSR)5603 (BL196)On stamp and in (upper) margin of SS11987NOAA and Nadezhda satellites, COSPAS/SARSAT acronyms
Russia (USSR)5603 cover (BL196 cover)SS1 and (black printed) cachet on cover1987?NOAA and Nadezhda satellites, COSPAS/SARSAT patch (in cachet), also with NOAA and Nadezhda satellites
Russia (USSR)NoneCachet on stamped envelope1987Nadezhda satellite, COSPAS acronym
Russia (USSR)None(Pictorial) cancel and (multi-color printed) cachet on stamped envelope1987Nadezhda satellite, COSPAS acronym
Tonga785 (Mi1181-1183)Strip of 3 (785 (a-c))1991NOAA satellite, SARSAT depiction
Tonga785 specimenStrip of 3 (785 (a-c)), overprinted "specimen"
United StatesNone(COSPAS/SARSAT logo) cachet (and signature) on cover1994NOAA and Nadezhda satellites

Below is a list of COSPAS / SARSAT program on satellite launch covers.

CountryCancel DateCancel LocationType of ItemNotes on Content
United States1983-03-28Vandenberg AFB, CA(Red and green printed) cachet on NOAA-8 launch cover"international search and rescue"
United States1983-03-28Greenbelt MD(GSFC Stamp Club) cachet on NOAA-8 launch coverSARSAT patch
United States1983-03-28Vandenberg AFB, CA(Space Voyage purple and blue) cachet on NOAA-8 launch coverCOSPAS/SARSAT patch, SARSAT acronym
United States1983-03-28Greenbelt MD(Space Voyage green and blue) cachet on NOAA-8 launch cover
United States1984-12-12Lompoc CA, Vandenberg AFB(Space Voyage) cachet on NOAA-9 launch coverCOSPAS/SARSAT patch, SARSAT acronym
United States1984-12-12Greenbelt MD(Space Voyage) cachet on NOAA-9 launch cover
United States1985-03-24Park Forest IL(Space Voyage) cachet on TIROS-1 anniversary coverSARSAT acronym
United States1986-09-17Greenbelt MD(Space Voyage green and orange) cachet on NOAA-10 launch coverSARSAT acronym
United States1986-09-17Vandenberg AFB, CA(Space Voyage brown and orange) cachet on NOAA-10 launch cover
United States1988-09-24Geeenbelt MD(Space Voyage brown and orange) cachet on NOAA-11 launch coverSARSAT acronym
United States1988-09-24Lompoc CA, Vandenberg AFB(Space Voyage grey and green) cachet on NOAA-11 launch cover
United States2009-02-06Vandenberg AFB, CA(Mission 57) cachet on NOAA-19 launch cover back, also front"NOAA-N Prime is crucial to international satellite-aided search and rescue organizations, which have helped save over 24,500 lives since 1982 by detecting emergency beacons from ships, aircraft and people in distress"
Russia2009-07-21 / 2009-07-21Kosmodrome Plesetsk / Archangelsk Province(Multi-color printed) cachet on Kosmos-2454 + Sterkh-1 launch coverCOSPAS/SARSAT patch
COSPAS-like antennas1
Russia2009-09-17Kosmodrome Baikonur Kazakhstan(Multi-color printed) cachet on Meteor-M1 and Sterkh-2 and IRIS and RS-28 and RS-38 and OSCAR-67 and BLITS launch coverconical omni-directional antenna on Sterkh satellite, possibly a COSPAS antenna

1Conical omni-directional antennas depicted on these items are similar to those on Nadezhda satellites that receive COSPAS signals. A good depiction of a conical omni-directional antenna like that on Nadezhda is seen as a detail of a Russian Venera satellite on Togo C344.

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