Images from the recently launched Sentinel-2A Earth observation satellite will be transferred between satellites by laser communication.
Sentinel-2A, the first optical imaging satellite in Europe’s Copernicus environmental surveillance programme, was launched from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana on 23 June.
The data from the Sentinel satellites is sent to a relay satellite with a laser beam and then, from there, sent to the ground station. The laser technology transfers data at a rate of 1.8Gb/s over a maximum of 40,000 km, around 30 times faster than what was previously possible.
The Laser Communication Terminal (LCT) was developed by the Space Administration of the German Aerospace Center (DLR) with Tesat-Spacecom in charge. In collaboration with Tesat-Spacecom, Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT planned, qualified and mounted the space-ready diode-laser pump module.
Sentinel-2A carries a high-resolution multispectral camera with 13 spectral bands. The satellite will provide data for various applications, among which are monitoring agricultural practices and mapping changes in land cover. It will also provide information on pollution in lakes and coastal waters, as well as contributing to mapping floods, volcanic eruptions and landslides in order to aid humanitarian relief efforts.
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