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Eutelsat in key laser test links

A Eutelsat satellite has been used to transmit extremely high-resolution images by ultra-fast laser beams.

A recent European Space Agency (ESA) test was a hugely successful “milestone” says ESA. The test used its European Data Relay System (EDRS) and photos taken by the Sentinel-1A/Copernicus Earth Observation satellite. These images were then transmitted via a laser beam directly to Eutelsat-9B.

What’s key here is that the Eutelsat satellite was a massive 35,000km away from Sentinal-1A, and both satellites were orbiting the planet. But the Sentinel-1A was at Low Earth Orbit (just 693km up) while Eutelsat-9B was orbiting 35,800km above the Equator.

ESA says the laser beam’s data transmission speed was an impressive 600 Mbit/s, and could have been even more. If used for a longer-term mission the overall data rate between the two satellites could match 50 Terabytes (TB) of data over a 24-hour period.

The test proved that data can be transmitted directly between satellites without necessarily needing to touch a ground-based teleport, and are thus free from the risk of deliberate jamming, or signal loss. The technology is transferable to aircraft ‘drones’ as well as other spacecraft.

Overall, the EDRS project is part of ESA’s Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems (ARTS) programme.

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