The "Space-Data-Highway"

On 6 August, Mathias Link, Director International Affairs at the Luxembourg Space Agency and current Chairman of ESA’s Joint Board on Communication Satellite Programmes, attended the successful launch of the second satellite to join the constellation that forms the European Data Relay System (EDRS).

The satellite was launched on board an Ariane 5 from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.

EDRS enables people to observe Earth almost live, accelerating responses to emergency situations and spurring the development of new services and products that create jobs and increase prosperity.

EDRS – dubbed the ‘SpaceDataHighway’ by its private operator Airbus – uses innovative laser technology to dramatically 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 latest satellite, called EDRS-C, will operate in geostationary orbit.


Together with other European States, Luxembourg has supported the EDRS programme since its inception more than 10 years ago. A number of Luxembourg-based companies have successfully contributed to both the space and ground segments of the EDRS system, notably SES, HITEC, Luxspace and Gradel. The programme was implemented as public-private partnership, allowing risk sharing to tackle both technical and market-related challenges linked to this innovation system.


The geostationary position, higher than typical low-Earth orbiting satellites, will enable 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.

Instead, the EDRS satellites can then beam the information back to Earth in almost real time.

Since the end of 2016, EDRS has, on a daily basis, been transmitting the images of Earth acquired by the Copernicus programme’s four Sentinel observation satellites.

It is also due to relay information from the International Space Station, once the required equipment is installed on the outside of Europe’s Columbus laboratory.

EDRS is a new, independent European satellite system, and is a public–private partnership between ESA and Airbus as part of ESA’s efforts to federate industry around large-scale programmes, stimulating technology developments to achieve economic benefits. 

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