If it was a vehicle there'd be a lot of speed violations, but we're talking about the SpaceDataHighway, a service that Airbus Defense and Space began that offers a major change in the speed of space communications—where ultra-broadband laser communications and the geostationary orbit of the relay satellites combine to deliver a unique, secure, near real-time data transfer service. Data latency hereby is a thing of the past.
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 program 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 center (DLR) is also a key sponsor.
“The SpaceDataHighway is no longer science fiction. It has become reality and will revolutionize satellite communications. The SpaceDataHighway will completely change the way humanitarian crises, maritime safety and the protection of the environment can be managed,” said Evert Dudok, Head of the Communications, Intelligence & Security (CIS) business line at Airbus Defence and Space.
Magali Vaissiere, ESA’s Director of Telecommunications and Integrated Applications said, “As the first commercial data relay service in the world to utilize lasers, the EDRS-SpaceDataHighway represents forward-thinking innovation at its best. ESA will continue working with our partners, Airbus Defence and Space and the European Commission, to keep pushing the envelope of technological progress by extending this success to worldwide coverage with GlobeNet.”
EDRS-A, the first relay satellite for the SpaceDataHighway program was launched on January 30, 2016. Positioned at 9 degrees East, this first communication node offers coverage from American East Coast to 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 fiber 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.