ESA launches first SpaceDataHighway laser relay

ESA launches first SpaceDataHighway laser relay

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EDRS Overview

UPDATE

EDRS-A, the first relay satellite of the SpaceDataHighway, was successfully launched into geostationary orbit on January 30, 2016. After a test period, it will become operational for its first end-user customer by mid-2016. The SpaceDataHighway system will provide high-speed laser communication in space at up to 1.8 gigabits per second.

Read all about ESA's most ambitious telecom program below:

France: The European Space Agency (ESA) and Airbus Defense and Space are all set to launch a laser communications program called the European Data Relay System (EDRS). Dubbed the ‘SpaceDataHighway’, this independent European satellite system will make on-demand data available at the right place at the right time by reducing delays in the transmission of large quantities of data. It will open up an entirely new market for near-real-time Big Data relay services and dramatically improve access to time-critical data, aiding disaster response by emergency services and maritime surveillance, etc.

The program is being considered necessary because under the European Commission’s Copernicus program, the European space telecommunication infrastructure needs to transmit 6 terabytes of data every day from space to ground. Right now, Europe relies on the availability of non-European ground station antennas to receive data from Earth observation satellites. This poses a potential threat to the strategic independence of Europe, as these crucial space assets may effectively not be under European control. EDRS offers a solution to these issues.

To minimize investment and operations costs, the EDRS is being implemented as a Public Private Partnership (PPP) through ESA’s ARTES program. Airbus will be operating the EDRS for at least 15 years and provide services to ESA, in particular for the Copernicus program.

Basically, the EDRS will consist of two geostationary payloads, a ground system consisting of a satellite control centre, a mission operations centre, a payload control center, and a dedicated network of ground station antennas. The EDRS ground stations will all be based in Europe. The most innovative part of the inter-satellite service is the laser communication terminal, which has been developed by TESAT Spacecom.

Benefits of SpaceDataHighway

Since the EDRS will provide real time access to Earth observation data, high data rates and encrypted data down link, apart from fast-forwarding the commanding capability, several key services will benefit from this system's infrastructure. These include:

• Earth observation applications in support of a multitude of time-critical services, e.g. monitoring of land-surface motion risks, forest fires, floods and sea ice zones

• Government and security services that need images from key European space systems such as Copernicus.

• Rescue teams that need Earth observation data within disaster-struck areas

• Security forces that transmit data to Earth observation satellites, aircraft and unmanned aerial observation vehicles, to reconfigure such systems in real time

• Relief forces operating in cut-off areas that require telecommunication support

In the future, an extension program called Globnet will add additional features to the service. The service will consider the demand for increased security requirements, increased redundancy requirements and the requirements to serve unmanned aerial vehicles.

Source: ESA