Following the recent decision confirming the ESA/Airbus Defence and Space (Airbus DS) partnership on the European Data Relay System (EDRS), agreement has been reached with the European Commission (EC) for the provision of EDRS services to the European Union Copernicus programme.
Subsequently, ESA and Airbus DS have signed a service level agreement on 20 February 2015 to provide high-speed communications to the Copernicus Sentinel-1 and -2 dedicated missions, starting in 2015 until 2021, with an option for extension until 2028.
The agreement includes the setup of a Joint Steering Committee, ensuring high-level representation of the EC, ESA and Airbus DS, to monitor EDRS status and evolution with the objective of maintaining EDRS as an autonomous European data relay capability.
Like optical fibre on Earth, EDRS, which is also referred to as a 'Space Data Highway', will provide laser communications in space with data rates of up to 1.8 Gigabits per second. EDRS will provide near-real-time data transfer from Earth observation satellites, drones or aircraft to Earth via geostationary communication satellites. It will provide ESA with the ability to download larger volumes of image data faster and more securely, helping to improve environmental monitoring, disaster response and crisis management.