The start up of Airbus Defence and Space’s initial service of SpaceDataHighway represents a step change in the speed of space communications. Ultra-broadband laser communications and the geostationary orbit of the relay satellites combine to deliver a unique, secure, near real time data transfer service, making data latency a thing of the past.
Thanks to the laser technology developed by Tesat Spacecom, the SpaceDataHighway can transfer high-volume data from Earth observation satellites, airborne platforms, or even from the International Space Station at a data rate of 1.8 gbps and can transmit up to 40 terabytes per day. The European Commission’s Earth observation satellites, Copernicus Sentinels will be the first spacecrafts to benefit from those next generation services.
The SpaceDataHighway programme is a result of a public-private partnership (PPP) between the European Space Agency (ESA) and Airbus Defence and Space. The German national aeronautics and space research centre (DLR) is also a key sponsor. EDRS-A, the first relay satellite for the SpaceDataHighway programme was launched on 30 January 2016. Positioned at 9° East, this first communication node offers coverage from American East Coast until India. A second satellite will be launched in 2017, which will extend the coverage, capacity and redundancy of the system.
Airbus Defence and Space is willing to expand the SpaceDataHighway with a third node, EDRS-D, to be positioned over the Asia-Pacific region. This third node will be the next step towards global optical fibre in the sky. EDRS-D will have several laser terminals performing optical bi-directional links in order to serve multiple customers, satellites and aircraft, simultaneously. It will also be able to transfer data to another relay satellite, in order to relay data straight back to the other side of the globe while being at the cutting-edge of security standards.