DLR To Build Ground Segment for European Data Relay Sats

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PARIS — The German Aerospace Center, DLR, will build and operate the ground segment of the European Data Relay System (EDRS) under a contract with EDRS prime contractor Astrium Services, DLR and Astrium announced June 25.

DLR has subcontracted part of the work on the three EDRS ground facilities to SES TechCom of Luxembourg, SES and DLR announced.

In a reversal of the usual direction of money flows in government space programs, Astrium Services has hired DLR, a government agency, to take charge of three EDRS ground facilities — the main control and data-reception centers in Harwell, England, and Weilheim, Germany, and a backup facility in Redu, Belgium. The contract is valued at 65 million euros ($84.5 million) through 2030, assuming a 15-year life of the EDRS payloads in orbit.

The DLR contract with SES TechCom is valued at 11.5 million euros and includes provision of four Ka-band antennas for the three ground facilities and operation of the Redu site.

Astrium Services has taken charge of EDRS in an unusual contract with the 19-nation European Space Agency that divides at least some of the program’s risk between the agency and the contractor. It is Astrium Services’ job to build and launch the EDRS payloads, and to design the ground segment. It is also Astrium Services’ job to secure a profitable market for EDRS services beyond the European Space Agency.

The first EDRS relay terminal, scheduled for launch in 2014, is a piggyback payload aboard the Eutelsat 9B telecommunications satellite owned by Eutelsat of Paris.

The second EDRS payload will be aboard a satellite being built expressly for EDRS by OHB AG of Bremen, Germany, under contract with Astrium Services. This satellite is scheduled for launch in 2015 and may include a commercial telecommunications payload from Avanti Communications of London, providing an additional source of revenue for Astrium Services.

The EDRS system is designed to speed the delivery of data from low-orbiting Earth observation satellites by relaying their data directly to an EDRS terminal in geostationary orbit via laser communications terminals built by Tesat Spacecom of Backnang, Germany.

The most promising user is the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) program to be run by the European Commission. The commission’s delays in confirming a budget for GMES may have slowed, but apparently have not stopped, work on EDRS.

The first GMES satellite, called Sentinel 1A, is scheduled for launch in 2013.