Menu
Europe's space laser communications system will launch this week

Europe's space laser communications system will launch this week

EDRS will transmit data at 1.8Gbps via laser between satellites

A "space data highway" that links satellites using high-speed laser transmissions should take a big step forward this week with the launch of the Eutelsat 9B satellite.

The satellite's main role will be downlinking hundreds of TV channels to viewers in Europe, but it will also carry the first node in the European Space Agency's European Data Relay System (EDRS).

EDRS is an attempt to provide a high-speed interconnect between satellites. If it works, scientists will be able to gather data from low-orbiting satellites much more quickly than they can today.

The data incurs delays today because the satellites fly relatively close to earth so they can collect the images and measurements that scientists need.

This low orbit (400 to 800 kilometers) means they're only in range of their ground stations for about 10 minutes during a 90-minute orbit, so the data has to be stored on board until it can be delivered.

EDRS sends the data to a satellite in geostationary orbit, roughly 36,000 kilometers above earth. From that higher perch, the geostationary satellite can stay in contact with the scientific satellite for much of its orbit, and be in constant contact with a ground station.

"We want [images] as fast as possible, and as many of them as possible, and in the best quality we can have," said Michael Witting, the EDRS project manager, during a briefing earlier this month.

edrs high speed feeder link relays to europe European Space Agency

Illustration of the EDRS system

NASA uses a similar arrangement to stay in touch with the International Space Station, which is also in a low-Earth orbit. But NASA's Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TRDS) fleet uses radio communications. EDRS uses a laser to send the data up to the geostationary satellite.

The European Space Agency likens the system to a highly accurate telescope, because the upper satellite has to lock onto a laser beam coming from a moving satellite 45,000 kilometers below. It requires great precision, but the ESA is confident it could work at even greater distances.

"From the testing we’ve done, we know it can operate up to 75,000km," Witting said.

The lasers carry the data at up to 1.8Gbits per second. The signal is sent back to Earth from Eutelsat 9B on a ka-band radio link. When fully deployed, the EDRS system will carry roughly 50 terabytes of data per day from space back to earth, according to European Space Agency estimates.

The system is expected to first be used this summer when EDRS relays signals from the European Commission's Copernicus Sentinel-1 and -2 satellites. They're tasked with high-resolution radar and optical imaging of land and sea, including for emergency services.

The EDRS system on Eutelsat 9B will be operated by Airbus Space and Defense as a commercial service. A second satellite dedicated to EDRS is scheduled to be launched in 2017.

The system was tested successfully in 2014 when the Sentinel-1 satellite sent an image back to earth via Inmarsat's Alphasat. The latter satellite carried an older laser communications terminal, and the transmission was intended to prove the system could work.

fibre optics in the sky J Mai/ESA

Staff at ESA’s Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt watch as the Sentinel-1 and Inmarsat’s Alphasat linked up using laser signals across almost 36 000 kms on Nov. 28, 2014


Follow Us

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Featured

Slideshows

Reseller News welcomes industry figures for 2019 Hall of Fame lunch

Reseller News welcomes industry figures for 2019 Hall of Fame lunch

Reseller News welcomed 2018 inductees - Chris Simpson, Kendra Ross and Phill Patton - to the third running of the Reseller News Hall of Fame lunch, held at the French Cafe in Auckland. The inductees discussed the changing landscape of the technology industry in New Zealand, while outlining ways to attract a new breed of players to the ecosystem. Photos by Gino Demeer.

Reseller News welcomes industry figures for 2019 Hall of Fame lunch
Upcoming tech talent share insights at inaugural Emerging Leaders Forum 2019

Upcoming tech talent share insights at inaugural Emerging Leaders Forum 2019

The channel came together for the inaugural Reseller News Emerging Leaders Forum in New Zealand, created to provide a program that identifies, educates and showcases the upcoming talent of the ICT industry. Hosted as a half day event, attendees heard from industry champions as keynoters and panelists talked about future opportunities and leadership paths and joined mentoring sessions with members of the ICT industry Hall of Fame. The forum concluded with 30 Under 30 Tech Awards across areas of Sales, Entrepreneur, Marketing, Management, Technical and Human Resources. Photos by Gino Demeer.

Upcoming tech talent share insights at inaugural Emerging Leaders Forum 2019
Show Comments