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Laser satellite connection system tested

A new Earth observation system integrating satellite and laser technologies, that could be used in areas like ship detection and emergency response, has successfully completed its first image download using a gigabit laser transmission system.

{mprestriction ids="1,2"}The European Data Relay System (EDRS) connects LEO and GEO satellites together, creating what has been dubbed a SpaceDataHighway.

The transmission via laser of image files took place between the radar sensor on Sentinel-1A, an Earth observation satellite in LEO orbit, and Alphasat, a communications satellite in GEO orbit, before being relayed to the ground.

This communication system, based on Laser Communication Terminal (LCT) technology, is a part of the European Space Agency’s (ESA) European Data Relay System (EDRS), also referred to as the SpaceDataHighway.

It aims to enable secure, high data rate communication between Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites or aerial platforms and Geostationary (GEO) satellites.

The LCT technology has been developed by the Airbus Defence and Space subsidiary Tesat-Spacecom with the support of the German Aerospace Centre DLR.

During the demonstration, data transfer reached 0.6 Gigabits per second of a possible 1.8 Gigabits per second over a distance of 45,000km between the Laser Communication Terminals.

LCT operation has already been conducted between LEO satellites, since 2008, and it is hoped that the SpaceDataHighway technology will help to significantly improve data latency and system reactivity.

“This is a major step in the proof of the concept. Once operational, the EDRS – SpaceDataHighway will move boundaries of space-based data communication significantly,” said Evert Dudok, head of the communications, intelligence and security (CIS) business line at Airbus Defence and Space.

“(The) SpaceDataHighway will also serve many commercial and military applications that require such unparalleled near-real-time, high bandwidth communication services.”

The SpaceDataHighway is a Private Public Partnership including ESA and Airbus Defence and Space. As the prime contractor, Airbus Defence and Space builds, owns, operates and co-finances the system infrastructure both on the ground and in space.

The technology used by the Laser Communication Terminal has been developed in Germany and supported by the German Aerospace Center DLR, based on funding by the Ministry of Economics.

The system has already been earmarked for use for Open Ocean Surveillance (OOS), where the SpaceDataHighway will provide low latency downlink capabilities, supporting maritime border control and providing support for counter-measures against threats like piracy and drug smuggling.{/mprestriction}

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