The EDRS-A node is the first building block of the European Data
Relay Satellite (EDRS), a "big data highway" costing nearly 500
million euros ($545 million) that will harness new laser-based
The EDRS will considerably improve transmission of large amounts of
data, such as pictures and radar images, from satellites in orbit to
Earth as they will no longer have to wait for a ground station on
Earth to come into view.
The EDRS-A node, riding piggyback on a Eutelsat communications
satellite, blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on
board a Proton rocket at 1720 ET (4.20 am local time).
EDRS-A, which is to orbit Earth at an altitude of around 36,000
kilometers (22,400 miles), houses a laser terminal that works
essentially like an autonomous telescope capable of locking on to
moving targets on Earth.
It will send data to and from Earth or between satellites at a rate
of 1.8 Gigabits per second, which is about equivalent to sending all
the data that could be printed in a one-meter long shelf of books in
one second, according to generally accepted industry measures.
The EDRS will relay data on sea ice, oil spills or floods from
Europe's multi-billion euro Copernicus Earth observation project to
users in Europe, Africa and the Atlantic area, but its services will
also be available to other paying customers.
The EDRS is a public-private partnership between the European Space
Agency (ESA) and Airbus Defence and Space.
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Pairing EDRS-A with the Eutelsat 9B satellite, which will beam TV
images to Europe, cuts down on costs for both satellite operator
Eutelsat and the ESA as they share the expenses of the launch and
A second satellite, EDRS-C, is to be launched in mid-2017.
Eventually further ones could follow, which could also be coupled
with commercial crafts.
"We are open to pairing a third EDRS payload with a future Eutelsat
satellite," Yohann Leroy, Eutelsat's Chief Technical Officer, told
(Reporting by Maria Sheahan; Editing by Gareth Jones and Grant
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