For European governments, the EDRS or SpaceDataHighway system is designed mainly to speed data transfers from Europe’s low-orbit Sentinel Earth observation satellites to users via a laser-optical link with two satellites in geostationary orbit equipped with similar laser communications terminals. The first of these geostationary nodes, EDRS-A, was launched in January 2016. The second, already delayed to early 2018, now faces further delays. Credit: ESA

LE BOURGET, France — A long-delayed satellite carrying a laser-optical payload for intersatellite links and Ka-band broadband for Africa faces further delays because of an anomaly in its Ka-band system, government and industry officials said.

The satellite, called EDRS-C by the European Space Agency, Airbus Defense and Space and the European Commission, and Hylas-3 by commercial satellite fleet operator Avanti Communications, which will operate the Ka-band service, is unlikely to launch before mid-2018, officials said.

EDRS-C/Hylas-3 is important for Airbus because it will extend the coverage and provide backup for the EDRS-A payload now in orbit on fleet operator Eutelsat’s Eutelsat 9A satellite at 9 degrees east in geostationary orbit.

EDRS-C/Hylas-3 is slated to operate at 31 degrees east.

Commercial Ka-band payload issues

The latest issue relates to the Ka-band equipment provided by MDA Corp. of Canada under a July 2012 contract valued at 35 million Canadian dollars ($26 million). Officials said the equipment had been integrated into the satellite, being assembled by OHB SE of Germany.

It has since been removed and returned to MDA’s Montreal facility for rework.

In response to Space Intel Report inquiries, MDA on June 23 issued the following statement:

“The majority of the payload is integrated with the spacecraft. Relative to well-known delays in the project, MDA payload components have experienced inconsequential delays.”

EDRS-C/Hylas-3 is being financed under a complicated relationship between Airbus, ESA, OHB and Avanti. Airbus is the prime contractor for the European Data Relay System, rebranded the SpaceDataHighway.

Airbus officials have said they are investing more than 130 million euros ($145 million) into the SpaceDataHighway, whose innovative laser communications terminals were developed by Tesat Spacecom of Germany based on years of support by the German government.

Airbus seeking a third node, over Asia, for 2020

Airbus earlier this year said it was beginning preliminary work on a third satellite, called EDRS-D, which like the first two would likely be a piggyback payload on a commercial telecommunications satellite to launch by 2020.

Airbus likely would place the laser payload on a satellite it is building for a customer with a lot over the Asia-Pacific region, expanding the SpaceDataHighway for a near-global reach with three nodes in orbit.

Airbus Defence and Space views the EDRS/SpaceDataHighway program, for which it is prime contractor and risk-sharing partner with ESA, as a global system of three nodes, with the third — still not selected — to be placed over the Asia-Pacific for use by civil and military customers. The EDRS-C date shown in this graphic is no longer valid, but the basic system architecture has not changed. Credit: Airbus Defence and Space

The appeal of EDRS to future military customers, including the U.S. Defense Department, would increase substantially with the third node over Asia.

ESA is acting on behalf of the 28-nation European Commission for the purchase of SpaceDataHighway data, mainly Earth observation images to be related from low-orbiting European Sentinel satellites equipped with laser terminals.

In a June 22 statement addressing the latest satellite delay, Magali Vaissiere, director of telecommunications at ESA, said:

“The issue is being investigated while the tests of the satellite are proceeding in parallel.”