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N° 12–1994: ESA-IAC agreement on Optical Ground Station signed

29 April 1994

On 29 April 1994, the Director of the Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias (IAC), Prof. Francisco Sanchez and the Director General of ESA, Mr. Jean-Marie Luton, signed an agreement on the installation of an Optical Ground Station at the Teide. The main purpose of this ground station is to receive laser- optical signals from ESA's ARTEMIS satellite, to be launched in 1997.

Note to editors :
Laser-optical Communications in Space : a Telescope on the Canary Islands to Receive Laser Signals from ESA's ARTEMIS Satellite ESA is pushing ahead with very advanced technology to transmit data directly from one satellite to another. Optical communications are a well-established technology on the ground, but ESA is now developing space optical communications using lasers. The first ever demonstration of such a link will take place in 1997.

The setting-up of an Optical Ground Station at the IAC Teide Observatory on Tenerife, Canary Islands, to receive laser signals from ESA's ARTEMIS satellite is part of this effort. A one-metre telescope is the heart of this ground station. The Tenerife site chosen for the deployment of the telescope is at 2400 metres altitude. Observations are almost entirely undisturbed by stray light and the site is particularly well suited to simulate and test laser optical communications with a satellite in geostationary orbit.

The terms of agreement allow the IAC, in exchange for making the site and its infrastructure available to ESA, part- time use of the telescope for astrophysical research. Following comprehensive testing, the Optical Ground Station will be installed on Tenerife in the second half of 1995, awaiting the launch of ESA's telecommunications satellite ARTEMIS and comprehensive tests with its SILEX laser-optical payload.

ARTEMIS is an advanced satellite for testing and operating new telecommunications techniques and services. The SILEX optical terminal carried by ARTEMIS will enable it to exchange data with other satellites, by sending or receiving laser beams.

The first satellite to make use of ARTEMIS laser communications capabilities will be the French SPOT-4 Earth observation satellite to be launched in early 1997. The initial data rate of SILEX for the transmission of remote sensing data is 50 Mbit per sec.

Note New artist's impressions of ARTEMIS and SILEX are available on request from ESA Public Relations in Paris.