The European Data Relay System (EDRS), being developed under ARTES 7, will be an independent, European satellite system designed to reduce time delays in the transmission of large quantities of data.

Data relay satellites are placed in geostationary orbit to relay information to and from non-geostationary satellites, spacecraft, other vehicles and fixed Earth stations, which otherwise are not able to be in touch permanently with each other.

To add to Europe’s independence, EDRS will fill the gap of a European telecom network that is fast, reliable and seamless. It will make on-demand data available at the right place and at the right time.

Why is it needed now?

Despite present telecommunication capabilities, there are still a number of limitations that delay the delivery of time-critical data to users. With the implementation of the Copernicus programme, a joint project of the European Commission and ESA, it is estimated that the European space telecommunication infrastructure will need to transmit 6 terabytes of data every day from space to ground.

Our present telecom infrastructure is challenged to deliver such large data quantities within short periods, and conventional means of communication may not be sufficient to satisfy the quality of service required by users of Earth observation data. In addition, Europe currently relies on the availability of non-European ground station antennas to receive data from Earth observation satellites. This poses a potential threat to the strategic independence of Europe, since these crucial space assets effectively may not be under European control. EDRS offers a solution to these issues.

How will it be done?


The EDRS infrastructure will consist of two geostationary payloads, a ground system consisting of a satellite control centre, a mission operations centre, a ‘feeder link’ ground station (FLGS) and data ground stations.

Data will be transmitted from low Earth orbit satellites to an EDRS payload and relayed to the ground, from where they will be made available to the user.

The first EDRS payload, comprising an optical satellite link as well as a radio band satellite link, will be placed on a host satellite operated by Eutelsat, called EB9B, with a launch expected in 2015.

A second EDRS payload will be flown on an evolution of the SmallGEO platform. SmallGEO is under development through a public-private partnership scheme between OHB and ESA. The launch of the second EDRS payload is expected in 2016.

Who will implement it?

In order to achieve a cost-efficient EDRS programme and minimise ESA investment and operation costs, EDRS is being implemented as a public-private partnership through element 7 of ESA’s ARTES programme.

Airbus Defence and Space has been selected as prime contractor through a competitive tender issued in 2010 and will carry the overall responsibility for the implementation of the space segment including launch, as well as the ground segment.

Airbus will commit to operate the EDRS for 15 years and provide services to ESA, in particular to the European Commission’s Copernicus programme. Sentinels 1 and 2 will be first satellites to use EDRS.

What are the benefits?

There are a number of key services that will benefit from this systems infrastructure right from the start:

  • Earth Observation applications in support of a multitude of time-critical services, e.g. monitoring of land-surface motion risks, forest fires, floods and sea-ice zones.
  • Government and security services that need images from key European space systems, such as Copernicus.
  • Rescue teams that need Earth observation data in disaster-struck areas.
  • Security forces that transmit data to Earth observation satellites, aircraft and unmanned aerial observation vehicles, to reconfigure such systems in real time.
  • Relief forces that operate among their units in the field and require telecommunication support in cut-off areas.

Last update: 1 December 2014

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