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N° 11–2015: European Data Relay System confirms services for Copernicus in cooperation with the European Commission

25 February 2015

Following the recent decision confirming the ESA/Airbus Defence and Space (Airbus DS) partnership on the European Data Relay System (EDRS), agreement has been reached with the European Commission (EC) for the provision of EDRS services to the European Union Copernicus programme.

Subsequently, ESA and Airbus DS have signed a service level agreement on 20 February 2015 to provide high-speed communications to the Copernicus Sentinel-1 and -2 dedicated missions, starting in 2015 until 2021, with an option for extension until 2028.

The agreement includes the setup of a Joint Steering Committee, ensuring high-level representation of the EC, ESA and Airbus DS, to monitor EDRS status and evolution with the objective of maintaining EDRS as an autonomous European data relay capability.

At the same occasion, ESA and Airbus DS also signed a service contract providing data relay capacity to other ESA and ESA partner missions in the future. As a first additional user, ESA’s Columbus module on the International Space Station (ISS) is planned to be provided with data relay services starting in 2018, which will support scientific experiments and enhance communication services to the astronauts on board the ISS.

This confirms Copernicus and Columbus/ISS as initial EDRS anchor customers. It allows Airbus DS to invest into the completion and operations of EDRS. Airbus DS is expected to develop the third-party commercial market for EDRS services and to support the evolution of the system towards global coverage. These agreements allow ESA to consolidate its support to the EDRS evolution as initiated at the 2014 ESA Ministerial Council with the GlobeNet Programme.

Like optical fibre on Earth, EDRS, which is also referred to as a ‘Space Data Highway’, will provide laser communications in space with data rates of up to 1.8 Gigabits per second. EDRS will provide near-real-time data transfer from Earth observation satellites, drones or aircraft to Earth via geostationary communication satellites. It will provide ESA with the ability to download larger volumes of image data faster and more securely, helping to improve environmental monitoring, disaster response and crisis management.

The Copernicus satellites Sentinel-1A and -1B and Sentinel-2A and -2B are equipped with Laser Communication Terminals (LCT) and will be the anchor users of EDRS. Besides Copernicus, EDRS will be able to serve commercial and institutional users worldwide.

About the European Space Agency

The European Space Agency (ESA) provides Europe’s gateway to space.

ESA is an intergovernmental organisation, created in 1975, with the mission to shape the development of Europe’s space capability and ensure that investment in space delivers benefits to the citizens of Europe and the world.

ESA has 20 Member States: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, of whom 18 are Member States of the EU. Two other Member States of the EU, Hungary and Estonia, have acceded to the ESA Convention and will soon become new ESA Member States.

ESA has Cooperation Agreements with six Member States of the EU. Canada takes part in some ESA programmes under a Cooperation Agreement.

ESA is also working with the EU on implementing the Galileo and Copernicus programmes.

By coordinating the financial and intellectual resources of its members,

ESA can undertake programmes and activities far beyond the scope of any single European country.

ESA develops the launchers, spacecraft and ground facilities needed to keep Europe at the forefront of global space activities.

Today, it develops and launches satellites for Earth observation, navigation, telecommunications and astronomy, sends probes to the far reaches of the Solar System and cooperates in the human exploration of space.

Learn more about ESA at

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ESA Media Relations Office


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