ESA delivers image from orbit via laser-based datalink
On 28 November, teams at ESA's Space Operations Centre, ESOC, in Darmstadt, Germany, watched intently as the Agency's Sentinel-1 and Inmarsat's Alphasat linked up using laser signals stretching almost 36 000 km across space.
During the link up, Sentinel-1A delivered a high-resolution image (showing the semi-arid region between Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan) acquired just a short time before.
In the weeks before the live demonstration, the Sentinel-1A operations teams at ESOC and teams at
Inmarsat, Tesat and DLR worked intensively to prepare for this first-ever such laser link.
The data were transmitted at impressively speed: 1.8 Gbit/s – similar to the speed of a home fibre-optic Internet connection. The link is designed to scale up to 7.2 Gbit/s in the future.
It is the precursor to the future European Data Relay System (EDRS) – Europe's new space data highway – that will relay large volumes of data very quickly so that information from Earth-observing missions can be even more readily available.
Having timely access to imagery from the Sentinel-1 mission, for example, is essential for numerous applications such as maritime safety and helping to respond to natural disasters.