FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Europe launched the first part of a new space "data highway" on Friday night that will pave the way for faster than ever monitoring of natural disasters such as earthquakes & floods.
The EDRS-A node is the first building block of the European Data Relay Satellite (EDRS), a "big data highway" costing nearly 500 million euros ($545 million) that will harness new laser-based communications technology.
The EDRS will considerably improve transmission of large amounts of data, such as pictures & radar images, from satellites in orbit to Earth as they will no longer have to wait for a ground station on Earth to come into view.
p> The EDRS-A node, riding piggyback on a Eutelsat communications satellite, blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on board a Proton rocket at 1720 ET (4.20 am local time).
EDRS-A, which is to orbit Earth at an altitude of around 36,000 kilometers (22,400 miles), houses a laser terminal that works essentially like an autonomous telescope capable of locking on to moving targets on Earth.
It will send data to & from Earth or between satellites at a rate of 1.8 Gigabits per second, which is approximately equivalent to sending all the data that could be printed in a one-meter long shelf of books in one second, according to generally accepted industry measures.
The EDRS will relay data on sea ice, oil spills or floods from Europe's multi-billion euro Copernicus Earth observation project to users in Europe, Africa & the Atlantic area, yet its services will moreover be available to other paying customers.
The EDRS is a public-private partnership between the European Space Agency (ESA) & Airbus Defence & Space.
Pairing EDRS-A with the Eutelsat 9B satellite, which will beam TV images to Europe, cuts down on costs for both satellite operator Eutelsat & the ESA as they share the expenses of the launch & joint systems.
A second satellite, EDRS-C, is to be launched in mid-2017. Eventually further ones could follow, which could moreover be coupled with commercial crafts.
"We are open to pairing a third EDRS payload with a future Eutelsat satellite," Yohann Leroy, Eutelsat's Chief Technical Officer, told Reuters.
(Reporting by Maria Sheahan; Editing by Gareth Jones & Grant McCool)
ScienceTechnology & ElectronicsEuropeEDRS