OTTAWA – Canada's Department of National Defence and military has signed an agreement with the US Air Force for the installation of search-and-rescue repeaters on the service's next generation Global Positioning System satellites.

The repeaters provided by Canada's Medium Earth Orbit Search and Rescue (MEOSAR) satellite project will significantly cut down on the time it takes to locate a distress signal, according to Canadian military officers.

The 24 search-and-rescue repeaters will be installed on the USAF's GPS 3 satellites.

"On Monday, August 24th the DND/CAF and the United States Air Force signed the Memorandum of Understanding for the integration of Canadian supplied search and rescue repeaters on USAF GPS satellites," said DND spokeswoman Ashley Lemire

The first repeater is expected to be on one of the satellites scheduled for launch in 2017.

COM DEV of Cambridge, Ontario, will be awarded the contract to build the repeaters. In 2013 it received a CAN $4.7 million (US $3.5 million) contract from the Canadian government for research-and-design work on the systems.

The MEOSAR satellite project, which will also include the construction of three ground stations, could cost up to (CAN) $249 million, ($181 million), according to Canada’s Department of National Defence. Companies will be asked for bids on the ground segment portion sometime next year. A contract for that will be awarded in 2018, with the ground stations built by 2020.

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.