The European Data Relay System (EDRS) – dubbed the ‘SpaceDataHighway’ by its private operator Airbus – uses laser technology to significantly cut the time needed for Earth observation satellites to deliver information to the ground. The satellites can transmit data at a rate of up to 1.8 Gbit/s.
The second satellite to join the constellation that forms EDRS successfully launched on board an Ariane 5 from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, on August 6, 2019. The latest satellite, called EDRS-C, will operate in geostationary orbit. It joins its sister EDRS-A, which was launched in January 2016.
EDRS enables people to observe Earth almost live, accelerating responses to emergency situations and spurring the development of new services and products. The geostationary position, higher than typical low-Earth orbiting satellites, will allow the constellation to maintain an almost constant connection with the lower Earth observation satellites that could otherwise only transmit their information when in direct line-of-sight with their ground stations, which introduces delays of up to 90 minutes. In contrast, the EDRS satellites can beam the information back to Earth in almost real time.