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SpaceDataHighway – Re-Defining Satellite Data Transfer

Recent years have seen an unprecedented development in satellite-based Earth observation (EO): a rising number of operational satellites together with the enhanced resolution of acquired imagery resulted in a dramatic increase of data generated in space. Additionally improved and novel applications particularly in the fields of emergency services, security applications and rapid monitoring, require rapid tasking capabilities and shorter data delivery times. These developments are stretching the capabilities of current and future EO systems particularly in regards to the performance of the ground segment in charge of retrieving the data.

Providing Data at the Right Time at the Right Place

To address these challenges Astrium Services is implementing the SpaceDataHighway1, the most advanced high-performance alternative for data transfer. The SpaceDataHighway provides:

Rapid tasking: With the SpaceDataHighway satellite operators are able to stay in contact with their satellites for all orbits and for longer time during each orbit. This enables them to re-program their space assets in almost real-time in case of time-critical or unforeseen data requirements.

Near-Real-Time data: The SpaceDataHighway enables immediate broadband data transfer to the ground, reducing the delivery time of acquired data from several hours to just a few minutes.

Large data volume: The state-of-the-art laser communication technology on-board the SpaceDataHighway facilitates data transmission at an unprecedented data rate. Combining this high-speed data transfer with the increased contact time results in a significant increase of data transmission capacities available to users worldwide.

Secure and trusted infrastructure: With the SpaceDataHighway satellite operators can avoid sovereignty issues connected with routing data through foreign territory. The high availability and redundancy of the system as well as the future system extensions provide a safe, future-proof data transmission infrastructure.

Moving from Mapping to Monitoring

By providing unparalleled data transmission the SpaceDataHighway has the potential to enhance a wide range of time-critical applications:

  • Humanitarian organisations and crisis intervention teams will benefit from timely provision of EO data over disaster areas helping them to manage and coordinate rescue activities more efficiently.
  • Military and security operations will benefit from timely and substantiated ground knowledge to plan and conduct missions more effectively and safely.
  • Near-real-time delivery of vast quantities of data will support governmental bodies, public authorities and international organisations in charge of maritime surveillance.
  • Authorities and organisations in charge of managing and protecting our environment will be able to observe developments and changes over large areas as well identify hotspots (e.g. illegal logging, water pollution) even in remote areas in a more timely and effective manner.

Ultimately the SpaceDataHighway supports a paradigm shift from the current quasi-static observation mode of operation to a much more dynamic real-time monitoring and surveillance of the Earth.

Novel Technology Solution

The SpaceDataHighway uses geostationary satellites to provide two-way broadband data relay services between Low-Earth-Orbit (LEO) satellites, spacecrafts or UAVs and fixed ground stations. The novel Laser Communication Terminal (LCT) that enables the high-speed, high-volume data transfer has been developed by the Astrium subsidiary TESAT and provides an exceptional data rate of up to 1.8 Gigabits per second.

Operations of the system commence with the launch of the first payload embarked on-board a commercial telecommunication satellite at the end of 2014. The system will then be enhanced with a second, dedicated satellite in 2015, providing an increased field of coverage and system redundancy. The enhancement of the system with further spacecrafts is already under planning affording a complete coverage of the Earth and providing long-term system redundancy.

A Landmark Partnership

The SpaceDataHighway is developed and implemented within a Public Private Partnership (PPP) program between the European Space Agency (ESA) and Astrium Services. As prime Astrium builds, owns, operates and co-finances the system’s infrastructure. Astrium also implements and provides the data transmission services to ESA and customers worldwide.

ESA funds the infrastructure development and is the anchor customer through the Sentinel satellite missions. The SpaceDataHighway provides data relay services for the Sentinel satellites within the European initiative Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES), facilitating a rapid downlink of large volumes of imagery.

More Information on

EDRS (European Data Relay System) – the SpaceDataHighway is developed and implemented within a Public Private Partnership (PPP) between the European Space Agency (ESA) and Astrium Services. Astrium holds the exclusive rights to sell data relay services to customers worldwide.

Source Astrium Services