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Satellite Location on Aircraft Crashes


Development of a Satellite System for the Precise Location of Aircaft Crashes

Tech Area / Field

  • SAT-AER/Aeronautics/Space, Aircraft and Surface Transportation

3 Approved without Funding

Registration date

Leading Institute
Federal State Unitary Enterprise V.S.Semenikhin Sceintific Research Institute for Automatic Facilities, Russia, Moscow

Supporting institutes

  • AO Yaroslavskiy Radio Plant, Russia, Yaroslavl reg., Yaroslavl

Project summary

The objective of TOMAK project is the development of a global international satellite system making possible a drastic increase rate of response and accuracy of location and identification of any types of transport facilities in emergency situations, as well as carrying out the most urgent application of the system with respect to aircraft distresses and crashes.

In 1992-1995 a team of scientists and specialists under the guidance of Prof. J.M.Ainbinder performed, at their own initiative, a large scope of scientific and research work in the field of satellite data communication systems. One of the works was devoted to the solution of an urgent problem of developing a global system of instantaneous (less than 0.5 sec.) and precise (within 100 m) location of current position of any types of transport facilities in emergency situations. The results of these works were presented in the project entitled Space Navigation, Control, and Communications System (abbreviated COSINUS according to the initial letters of the corresponding Russian words).

1995 and 1996 saw a number of major aircraft crashes which revealed the fact that the COSPAS-SARSAT System, the only acting international satellite system of search for ships and aircraft in distress could not basically determine precise positions of instantaneously occurring (5-50 sec.) aircraft crashes, since in such cases the emergency radio beacons (ERB) installed for transmitting automatic distress signals to mission control centers were destroyed along with the plane itself.

Intense research and development work was performed recently years by a number of institutions and companies both in Russia and abroad for solving the problem of locating aircraft crashes within the scope of the now acting COSPAS-SARSAT system by retaining serviceability of an emergency radio beacon after crashing of the aircraft where the beacon is installed. The research work was earned out mainly along two lines, viz, ejecting the ERB before crashing of the aircraft, and developing a non-separable ERB of a shockproof design capable of withstanding enormous overloads during aircraft crashes. However, the many-year research works failed despite heavy expenses made for the purpose.

In response to a request made by the Intergovernmental Aircraft Committee (IAC) and the Government of the Russian Federation, an independent team headed by Prof. J.M.Ainbinder submitted a project (based on technical proposals contained in the COSINUS project) of a satellite system TOMAK (Precise Location of Aircraft Crashes), wherein an alternative way for solving the problem in question was proposed, based on Patent Application No. 96-120, 950 of October 29, 19% by the same inventors.

A basically new concept is proposed in the TOMAK project, which overcomes the complicated problems of saving ERB after crashes. According to the new concept, a new-type ERB should be put in operation at the first signs of an emergency situation, namely, a ERB capable of repeatedly transmitting to a control center, for the seconds preceding the plane crash, the signals containing encoded identification number and accurate coordinates of the aircraft along its entire falling trajectory till the point of the aircraft destruction.

The TOMAK project was approved by the leading ministries and agencies of the Russian Federation (Ministry of the Defense Industry, Ministry of Transport, Ministry for Emergency Situations, Space Agency of Russia, Intergovernmental Aircraft Committee). In accordance with a decision of the Government of the Russian Federation, demonstration tests of a fragment of the proposed system will be performed in 1997 at the expense of the budget of the Russian Federation.

Success of the TOMAK project to a considerable extent is determined by the fact that its implementation is entrusted to large enterprises of the Ministry of the Defense Industry of the Russian Federation, viz., the Research Institute for Automatic Facilities named after Academician V.C.Sememkhm (NM AA) and the Joint Stock Company The Yaroslavl Radio Plant (АО YaRZ). Both of them being capable of solving the problem successfully due to experience gained m research and development work aimed at establishing special systems and engineering facilities of the same nature.

It should be noted that the basically new concept which solves many problems remaining hitherto unsolved, as well as a large scope of scientific and search work fulfilled during the last five years on a voluntary basis made it possible to solve the number of problems by making use of the current space communications facilities and navigation systems, thus, enabling to implement the project within short terms that were considered unrealistic for global satellite systems of such magnitude, i.e. complete implementation of the TOMAK system is planned to be performed in 1997-1999.

As a result of implementation of the project the basic TOMAK system will be established and put in trial operation. The system provides the solution of three major problems by installing a single compact, multifunctional ERB of a new type costing as low as 1.5-2 thousand dollars on an aircraft, namely:

1) Virtually instantaneous determination of precise coordinates of the positions of emergency aircraft landings or crashes;
2) Accurate and prompt determining of the descenting or falling trajectory of an aircraft;
3) Regular transmission (every 5 to 10 min)of the current coordinates of the aircraft under normal flight conditions to the control centers (monitoring).

A new prototype of a standard aircraft ERB will also be developed and put in mass production.

The TOMAK system does not replace the existing COSPAS-SARSAT system but compliments it by adding basically new potentialities to and increasing the operating accuracy and speed of the current system.

Urgency of the problem solved by the TOMAK project is increasing still more in connection with a decision taken by ICAO on an obligatory equipping of the entire fleet of civil aircraft (over 30 thousand planes) with emergency radio beacons by the year 2000. Moreover, taking account of the fact that similar ERB will be installed on other transport vehicles the demand of the world market in ERB will amount to hundreds of thousands items.

Prospects for further development of the project are determined also by the fact that new possibilities offered by the TOMAK system can be equally used in any other transport facilities, such as railway trains, sea- and river vessels, long-haul motor-vehicle freight traffic and passenger transportation, etc.).

Interest in the project was displayed by the foreign companies Motorola and Thomson-CSF, which potential roles will being as take a part in work meeting and estimating test results, and collaboration in realize of forcing system segments.

In conclusion it is noteworthy that carrying into effect the TOMAK project will contribute significantly to the development of a global international satellite system of safe air traffic the creation of which was advocated by General James Abdrahamson, "the father of star wars", last summer when he visited the Space Agency of Russia.


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