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ESA approves Data Relay Satellite network

Paris, France: European Space Agency (ESA) has approved the launch and contracting of the European Data Relay Satellite (EDRS) network, filling a long-standing gap in Europe’s space capability. The dedicated relay satellite will be put into service in late 2014 or early 2015.

The laser relay terminals will have a capacity of 1.8 Gbps., sufficient to permit near-real-time transmission of remote-sensing data, something existing data relay satellite systems such as the US Tracking and Data Relay Satellite system cannot do.

The European ’s (EU) Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) Earth observation program will be the anchor tenant. The operator will be able to market unneeded capacity to third-party customers in return for its investment.

The US and Russia have had extensive data relay systems in place for some time, and Japan and China have begun developing similar networks.

Magali Vaissiere, ESA’s communications director, said that a program board had gathered sufficient financing commitments to cover the agency’s share of the EUR 370-million (USD 504-million) project, which will be run by a private operator and financed through a public/private partnership. This permitted the agency’s industry board to authorise the award of a phase C/D full-scale development contract.

EADS Astrium was downselected in December to negotiate development and operations contracts for EDRS. ESA expects to conclude the development award in the next few weeks, but the operations agreement may take months or even years to negotiate, Vaissiere said. The EU has yet to agree to permanent funding and governance structures for operating, maintaining and replenishing GMES.

A total of EUR 280 million was committed for system development, almost half by Germany, which will have a lead role in the undertaking. German aerospace centre DLR said it would invest EUR 120 million in EDRS and the state of Bavaria and the city of Cologne, another EUR 7 million. The Netherlands and Norway also agreed to support the program, joining eight other nations who had previously committed to development.

EDRS will consist of two geostationary payloads—a small dedicated satellite, based on the Small Geo satellite bus developed by Germany’s OHB System, and a hosted payload to be piggybacked on a commercial communications satellite. Each payload will include a laser-optical terminal supplied by Tesat Spacecom, a German unit of EADS.

A series of secondary payloads, intended to test new technologies or communications services, also will be carried on the dedicated spacecraft, ESA member stated.

EDRS also will be the first data relay satellite network funded with private as well as public funds.
Source: Aviation Week