Space Applications on the Rise
Recent years have seen an unprecedented increase of data generated in space resulting from:
- a rising number of operational satellites,
- ever higher performing observation instruments on board, and
- an increasingly dynamic monitoring of the Earth for both civilian and military systems.
Additionally improved and novel applications (e.g. emergency response services, security applications) require rapid tasking capabilities and shorter data delivery times. These developments are stretching the capabilities of the available ground infrastructure in charge of retrieving the data.
Data Relay Mission for the Long-Term
The SpaceDataHighway addresses these challenges by providing an end-to-end solution for space data transfer. The system fulfils current and future needs of satellite operators and data users in terms of data volume as well as data aging and response times.
The first part of the space segment will be launched as a piggy-back payload on-board Eutelsat commercial telecommunication satellite in 2015. A second dedicated spacecraft will follow in 2016, providing an increased field of coverage and system redundancy. These two parts will form the initial core space infrastructure providing direct coverage for LEO satellites flying over Europe, the Middle East, Africa, the Americas, Asia and the Poles.
The GlobeNet extension of the SpaceDataHighway infrastructure with additional geostationary data relay capacities is currently under preparation. This extension will improve the geographical and orbital coverage of the service, augment system capacity and performance, enhance end-to-end security and provide long-term system redundancy beyond 2030.
Novel Technology Solution
The novel Laser Communication Terminal (LCT) that enables the high-speed, high-volume data transfer has been developed by the Airbus Defence and Space subsidiary TESAT. This innovative piece of equipment has already been successfully tested during in-orbit verification between the German radar satellite TerraSAR-X and the American NFIRE satellite. In this assessment data rates of up to 5.5 Gbps were transmitted over a distance of 5,000 km. The same piece of equipment is currently embarked on a commercial telecommunication satellite in order to perform further system- and operational service demonstrations.