Second Node of the Space Data Highway Launched

The European Data Relay System monitors the Earth in almost real time. (Source: ESA)

On August 6, 2019 at 9:30 pm, the European EDRS-C satellite was launched with an Ariane 5 rocket from the spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. The satellite is already in position in geostationary orbit and was placed in orbital position 31 degrees East.

The EDRS-C is the second node of the Space Data Highway – also referred to as the European Data Relay System, or EDRS – which is being implemented as a public-private partnership between the European Space Agency ESA and Airbus. The 3.2-ton telecommunications satellite and was engineered and manufactured by space systems specialist OHB System. It separated from the Ariane 5 launch vehicle on schedule after an ascent lasting about thirty minutes. A few minutes later, the EDRS-C satellite transmitted its first “signs of life” from space.

EDRS-C complements EDRS-A, which has been in space since 2016 and transmits images of the Earth taken by the four Sentinel observation satellites of the Copernicus program. Since the initial launch at the end of 2016, more than 20,000 laser connections have been established, over which more than one petabyte of data have been downloaded. This data is transmitted via laser communication terminals (LCT). These LCTs are provided by Tesat-Spacecom space company from Backnang, Germany. A large portion of the key optical components for this were developed and manufactured by the Berliner Glas Group.

The extensive EDRS-C satellite tests prior to launch were carried out at IABG and Airbus in Ottobrunn near Munich. (Source: Airbus)

Optical communication enables customers to access, for further use on Earth, hugely increasing amounts of data in a faster, more reliable way. Very sophisticated technologies were developed and qualified for use in space in order to exploit the advantages of transmitting data via laser light. EDRS-C will serve as a redundant backup to the Space Data Highway system, double the transmission capacity, and act as a relay for simultaneously routing data from two observation satellites.

Based on the latest laser technologies, this system is the first and only “fiber optics network in the sky”. It is a network of geostationary satellites that are positioned permanently over a network of ground stations and can transmit data at a speed of 1.8 Gbit/s. This improves, for example, Earth observation services and thus considerably reduces reaction times during natural catastrophes, as the data recorded can be transmitted in almost real time. And the planning already continues. Starting in 2024, a third communication node is to be positioned over the Asia-Pacific region. This will again considerably increase the communication capacity of the coverage area because the EDRS-D satellite will be equipped with three laser communication terminals. (Source: ESA / Berliner Glas / OHB System)

Links: European Data Relay System EDRS, Telecommunications & Integrated Applications, European Space Agency ESA, Paris, FranceBerliner Glas KGaA Herbert Kubatz GmbH & Co., Berlin, GermanyOHB System AG, Bremen, Germany

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