Satellite laser relay system logs 10k connections

By on 21 May, 2018

Fibre optic in space: the ESA and Airbus operate the SpaceDataHighway: a satellite-based laser relay system for Earth Observation data. Image supplied by Airbus.

The SpaceDataHighway system is capable of delivering 40 terabytes a day, having recently clocked 10,000 connections at a reliability rate of 99.8 percent.

A project of the European Space Agency (ESA) and Airbus, the SpaceDataHighway system uses a constellation of satellites in geostationary orbit that use lasers to lock onto Earth Observation satellites in low earth orbit with lasers as they collect their data, which they can harvest and beam down to Earth in near-real-time, at a rate of 1.8 Gigabits a second.

Think of it as an orbiting, laser-driven network relay for satellite and UAV-derived data, and you’re getting close. Pretty cool, huh?

Currently leveraged by the EU’s Copernicus program, it will intercept and relay data from the Columbus module of the International Space Station (ISS) in 2019 and the Pleiades Neo satellites in 2020, but its capable of hosting other clients.

“While 2017 has been a year of ramp-up for the system, we have now reached more than 1,000 connections per month in 2018 with a very high level of reliability,” said Hughes Boulnois, Head of the SpaceDataHighway program at Airbus Defence and Space.

The system’s laser communication terminals were developed by Tesat-Spacecom and the DLR German Space Administration. EDRS-A, the first SpaceDataHighway relay satellite launched in 2016, offers coverage from the American East Coast to India.

According to Airbus, a  second satellite, EDRS-C, will be launched in 2019, which will double the system’s capacity and extend the coverage and redundancy of the system, while a third node, ERDS-D, is ultimately intended to be positioned over the Asia-Pacific region.

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