European Data Relay System – “SpaceDataHighway” to Revolutionise Monitoring of Natural Disasters

The European Data Relay System’s first laser terminal has reached space aboard its host satellite and is now under way to its final operating position.

EDRS-A was launched on 29 January as part of the Eutelsat-9B telecom satellite atop a Proton rocket from Baikonur, Kazakhstan.

The satellite was released around 36 000 km over the equator, and is moving towards its final geostationary position at 9°E over Europe, where it will be operated by Eutelsat.

About the European Data Relay System

Dubbed the “SpaceDataHighway” the European Data Relay System (EDRS) will revolutionise satcoms as Europe’s first optical communication network, capable of relaying user data in near-real time at an unprecedented 1.8 Gbit/s.

EDRS is a public–private partnership between the European Space Agency (ESA) and Airbus Defence and Space, with Airbus operating the service and the DLR German Space Administration funding the development of the laser terminal.

EDRS - the SpaceDataHighway Image: ESA
EDRS – the SpaceDataHighway Image: ESA

Relaying Data via Laser – Real Time Monitoring of Natural Disasters

Normally, low-orbiting satellites must come within view of a ground station before they can send their information to Earth, which usually means a 10 minute window during a 90-minute orbit.

EDRS however, collects the data from these low-orbiting satellites via laser and then sends it down to ground stations on Earth in almost-real time. This will dramatically improve access to time-critical and potentially life-saving data, such as monitoring natural disasters such as floods. For this purpose, the system is to be linked with European Commission’s Copernicus Sentinel satellites.

Copernicus is the European Union’s Earth observation programme, using the Sentinel satellites and other sources to monitor the Earth’s environment.

Testing EDRS

Testing EDRS-A’s general health and performance will begin in a few days though the EDRS ground stations in Germany, Belgium and the UK.

Test links to its first customers, the European Commission’s Copernicus Sentinel satellites, will then be carried out over several weeks for the service to begin this summer. Data relay for the International Space Station will start in 2018.

Completing the System

The second EDRS node, the dedicated EDRS-C satellite, will be launched next year to join EDRS-A over Europe. A third is planned in 2020 over the Asia-Pacific region, doubling the system’s coverage.

Launch of Sentinel-3 satellite for Copernicus

The third satellite of Europe’s Copernicus programme is set for launch from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia on 16 February 2016.

The Sentinels are a fleet of satellites designed to deliver the wealth of data and imagery that are central to the European Commission’s Copernicus programme.

This unique environmental monitoring programme is providing a step change in the way we view and manage our environment, understand and tackle the effects of climate change and safeguard everyday lives.

Carrying a suite of cutting-edge instruments, Sentinel-3 will systematically measure Earth’s oceans, land, ice and atmosphere to monitor and understand large-scale global dynamics. It will provide essential information in near-real time for ocean and weather forecasting.

With a focus on our oceans, Sentinel-3 measures the temperature, colour and height of the sea surface as well as the thickness of sea ice. These measurements will be used, for example, to monitor changes in sea level, marine pollution and biological productivity.

Over land, this innovative mission will provide a bigger picture by monitoring wildfires, mapping the way land is used, observing vegetation state and measuring the height of rivers and lakes – complementing the high-resolution measurements of its Sentinel-2 sister mission.

Sentinel-3 is based on a two identical satellites (Sentinel-3A and -3B) working together for optimum global coverage and data delivery. For example, with a swath width of 1270 km, the ocean and land colour sensor will provide global coverage every two days.

The mission is the result of close collaboration between ESA, the European Commission, Eumetsat, France’s CNES space agency, industry, service providers and data users. The satellites were designed and built by a consortium of around 100 companies under the leadership of Thales Alenia Space, France.