ESA Conducts Laser Link Experiment with the Support of Planning System Developed by Solenix

02 December 2014

Last week, ESA successfully conducted an experiment connecting the Sentinel-1A and the Alphasat spacecraft via laser link. This exciting experiment demonstrates the use of this technology, together with the growing network of spacecraft around the Earth, to efficiently relay large amounts of scientific data to the ground. This new communication technology can achieve an impressive data transfer rate of 7.2 Gbit/s.

Sentinel-1 is a dual spacecraft Earth observation mission providing imagery of the Earth’s surface through its advanced radar instrument. Sentinel-1A was launched in April 2014, while the second spacecraft, Sentinel-1B, will be launched in 2015.

Alphasat is a telecommunications spacecraft operated by Inmarsat. It hosts four ESA sponsored instruments for scientific experimentation, the Technology Demonstration Payloads, or TDPs, which are operated by institutions all around Europe.

All experiments using the TDPs are performed under the supervision of the TDP ESA Coordination Office (TECO), using a planning software system designed and developed by Solenix under contract with ESA’s Advanced Mission Concepts Office, in close collaboration with ESA’s Technology and Integrated Applications department, Inmarsat and the TDP partners across Europe.

The TECO Planning System constitutes the focal point of the TDP planning and operations. It gathers operations requests from the scientists and employs state of the art planning and scheduling techniques to coalesce these requests and submit a single, consolidated, operations request to Inmarsat. This automated planning system enables the efficient coordination of week to week routine TDP operations with minimal operator intervention, and has been used operationally since 2013.

Using this software system, TECO successfully planned and coordinated last week's laser link experiment between the Sentinel-1A spacecraft and TDP1, operated by DLR and TESAT.

More details about this important experiment can be found on the ESA website.