Data Relay Satellite Beams at Light Speed

EDRS antennas undergoing tests. (Credit: DLR)

PARIS (ESA PR) — The most sophisticated laser communication network ever designed has gained its second satellite.

The European Data Relay System (EDRS) was built to accelerate the flow of information from Earth-observation satellites to people on the ground.

The second satellite in the network, EDRS-C, has now passed its user commissioning review and entered into full service.

Launched on 6 August 2019, EDRS-C is in geostationary orbit some 36,000 kilometres above Earth.

This geostationary position enables the communication satellite to maintain an almost constant connection with Earth-observation satellites that are closer to the planet’s surface and circle the Earth every 90 minutes or so.

The EDRS satellites use lasers to communicate with Earth-observation satellites and beam their data back to Europe in almost real time. Without them, there would be delays of up to 90 minutes.

EDRS-C has joined its sister satellite, EDRS-A, and can now be used by its customers to relay information from all four Sentinel satellites that watch over Earth, capturing day-and-night radar images and multispectral high-resolution images of vegetation, soil and water cover, inland waterways and coastal areas – as well as information for emergency services.

The Sentinel satellites form part of the EU’s Copernicus programme.

EDRS is a new, independent European satellite system, and is a Partnership Project between ESA and operator Airbus as part of ESA’s efforts to federate industry around large-scale programmes, stimulating technology developments to achieve economic benefits.

The EDRS-C satellite platform was built by OHB System in Germany and the laser terminals were developed by Tesat-Spacecom and the DLR German Space Administration.