The SpaceDataHighway™ (SDH) is a public–private partnership between ESA (European Space Agency) and Airbus. The laser terminal was built by TESAT-Spacecom, an Airbus subsidiary, and funded by the DLR German Aerospace Center. The European Commission is the first Customer of the SpaceDataHighway. The 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. SpaceDataHighway represents a step change in the speed of space communications. Ultra-broadband laser communications and the geostationary orbit of the relay satellites combine to deliver a unique, secure, near real time data transfer service, making data latency a thing of the past

EDRS-A, the first relay satellite for the SpaceDataHighway programme was launched on 30 January 2016. Positioned at 9° East, this first communication node offers coverage from the American East Coast until India. A second satellite will be launched in 2019, which will extend the coverage, capacity and redundancy of the system.

EDRS-D will have several laser terminals performing optical bi-directional links in order to serve multiple customers, satellites and aircraft, simultaneously. It will also be able to transfer data to another relay satellite, in order to relay data straight back to the other side of the globe while being at the cutting-edge of security standards. As the owner and operator of the SpaceDataHighway, Airbus is targeting a global deployment, offering opportunities for international partnerships. We are aiming to expand the capacity and coverage of the system by 2023, with a third satellite positioned over the Asia-Pacific region. This third node will be the next step towards global optical fibre in the sky.

The SpaceDataHighway will provide data transmission in broadband quality in near-real time through high-precision laser. This makes it ideal:

  • to transfer time-critical and sensitive information, thus increasing a mission’s staying power and data acquistion capability
  • to gain faster and longer access to your air and space assets
  • to securely transfer information in hostile electronic warfare environment
  • to facilitate Near-Real-Time (NRT) data delivery, minimizing latency of mission critical data collected beyond line of sight
  • to support the transfer of large volumes of data generated by powerful sensors or to enable Combat Cloud concept

Thanks to the laser technology developed by Tesat Spacecom, the SpaceDataHighway can transfer high-volume data from Earth observation satellites, airborne platforms, or even from the International Space Station at a data rate of 1.8 gbps and can transmit up to 40 terabytes per day. The European Commission’s Earth observation satellites, Copernicus Sentinels will be the first space crafts to benefit from those next generation services.


For Low Earth Observation (LEO) satellites

  • Supports the transmission of large data volumes from LEO satellites
  • High volume data transfer outside ground network vicinity
  • Improved data latency at global scale
  • Enhanced reactivity
  • Routing of data over secure and trusted infrastructure

For Airborne Platforms

  • High Volume data transfer Beyond Line of Sight
  • Resilient communications
  • Resistant to jamming and spoofing
  • Low probability of Interception
  • Low probability of Detection


  • First tests for optical inter-satellite links with Sentinel satellites and EDRS-A started in early 2016
  • The operational service started in end of 2016 with Sentinel 1A (radar satellite)
  • As of January 2018 all 4 Sentinel satellites are served


  • Data collection capacity/day increased by up to 50% (Sentinel-1)
  • Improved data collection flexibility by clearing on-board storage before crossing Europe
  • Consequential: increased use of Sentinel-1 in dual polarization mode
  • Pre-operational NRT pass-through link tests via SDH and user community successfully accomplished


  • >500 Terabytes of data relayed via SDH to date
  • More than 1000 link sessions per month
  • Average communication session duration of 18 mins


  • We achieved our 10,000th successful relay link in May 2018
  • SDH service routinely achieves, mostly even over-achieves contractually agreed KPIs, e.g. SDH has delivered >99.8% service availability to the Sentinel 1/2 missions
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