SpaceDataHighway™ (SDH) is a public-private partnership between ESA (European Space Agency) and Airbus. The SpaceDataHighway service utilises the Airbus-owned and -operated European Data Relay System (EDRS) laser communication infrastructure to provide this high bandwidth capability for both LEO (low-Earth orbit) satellites and airborne platforms.
SpaceDataHighway enables users to transfer data (including imagery, video and voice) from their LEO satellites and airborne platforms by means of laser communications via the EDRS-A and EDRS-C geostationary satellites to receiving ground stations in Europe.
The SpaceDataHighway service represents an order of magnitude change in the speed of space communications, using cutting-edge laser technology and satellites in geostationary Earth orbit to deliver unique and secure data transfer services in real time.
High-volume data transfer via ultra-broadband laser communications
- SpaceDataHighway enables the transfer of time-critical and sensitive information, supporting faster and longer access to air and space assets, securely transferring information in hostile electronic warfare environments, ensuring stealth communications and allowing transferring large volumes of data generated by powerful sensors or to enable the combat cloud concept.
- User applications include military communications; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR); open ocean surveillance; environmental and climate change monitoring; and emergency response. Among the key benefits are high-volume data transfer outside the vicinity of ground networks, improved data latency at global scales, enhanced reactivity and routing of data over secure and trusted infrastructure.
Advantages of SpaceDataHighway:
- High-volume data transfer from Earth observation satellites, airborne platforms and other users at a data rate of 1.8 Gbps, with transmit volumes of up to 40 terabytes per day.
- Mature, space-proven technology with high bandwidth spectrum availability, low probability of intercept/detection and resistance to jamming.
- Ensures high volume data transfers beyond line-of-sight (BLOS).
EDRS - SpaceDataHighway: How it works
SpaceDataHighway: a public-private partnership
The initial EDRS laser terminals were developed and built by TESAT-Spacecom, an Airbus subsidiary, and funded by the DLR German Aerospace Centre. The European Commission is the first SpaceDataHighway customer. The four Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-2 satellites of Copernicus, the European Commission's Earth observation programme, are equipped with laser communication terminals that will significantly accelerate the delivery of large volumes of time-critical data to Earth monitoring centres within Europe.
- The first SpaceDataHighway relay, comprising a laser communication terminal and a Ka-band inter-satellite link, was launched in 2016 as a secondary payload aboard a commercial telecommunications spacecraft, offering coverage from above the American East Coast to India. The second satellite, EDRS-C was launched in August 2019 – extending the system’s coverage, capacity and redundancy.
- The management of the laser connections is controlled by SpaceDataHighway’s Mission Operation Centre which operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week at Airbus premises near Munich. Operators receive transmission requests from customers, programme the space and ground segment and monitor the performance of communications
- In early 2020, the SpaceDataHighway system reached the milestone of 30,000 successful laser connections during its first four years of routine operations. With reliability rate of 99.53%, these connections downloaded more than 1.7 petabytes of data from space to date.
- In July 2019, the EDRS team successfully demonstrated the EDRS timeliness capability, at the European External Action Service in Brussels. This highlighted to the stakeholders from the EO user community the concrete advantages of using SpaceDataHighway to meet their quasi-real-time requirements. A duplex event in Tokyo was held in cooperation with the Delegation of the European Union to Japan.
SpaceDataHighway: Start Of Servive