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N° 2–2016: First SpaceDataHighway laser relay in orbit

29 January 2016

The European Data Relay System’s first laser terminal has reached space aboard its host satellite and is now under way to its final operating position.

EDRS-A was launched on 29 January as part of the Eutelsat-9B telecom satellite at 22:20 GMT (23:20 CET, 04:20 30 January local time) atop a Proton rocket from Baikonur, Kazakhstan.

The satellite was released at 07:32 GMT today, around 36 000 km over the equator, and is now moving towards its final geostationary position at 9°E over Europe, where it will be operated by Eutelsat.

EDRS is ESA’s most ambitious telecom programme yet, taking the form of a public–private partnership between ESA and Airbus Defence and Space, with Airbus operating the service and the DLR German Space Administration funding the development of the  laser terminal.

Dubbed the ‘SpaceDataHighway’, EDRS will revolutionise satcoms as Europe’s first optical communication network, capable of relaying user data in near-real time at an unprecedented 1.8 Gbit/s.

Normally, low-orbiting satellites must come within view of a ground station before they can send their information to Earth.

EDRS instead collects their information from its higher, geo-stationary position via laser and immediately relays it to the ground, dramatically improving access to time-critical and potentially life-saving data.

ESA, Airbus and DLR will in a few days begin testing EDRS-A’s general health and performance, working with the EDRS ground stations in Germany, Belgium and the UK.

Test links to its first customers, the European Commission’s Copernicus Sentinel satellites, will then be carried out over several weeks for the service to begin this summer. Data relay for the International Space Station will start in 2018.

Completing the system

The second EDRS node, the dedicated EDRS-C satellite, will be launched next year to join EDRS-A over Europe. A third is planned in 2020 over the Asia-Pacific region, doubling the system’s coverage.

Learn more about EDRS at

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 22 Member States: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, of whom 20 are Member States of the EU.

ESA has established formal cooperation with seven other Member States of the EU. Canada takes part in some ESA programmes under a Cooperation Agreement.

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. It is working in particular with the EU on implementing the Galileo and Copernicus programmes.

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
Tel: +33 1 53 69 72 99