This Satellite Image Was Beamed 22,000 Miles Across Space by Laser

By Jamie Condliffe on at

This may look like a fairly normal satellite image of Berlin, but it holds a rather special secret: it's the first image of its kind to be beamed back from the European Space Agency's Sentinel-1A satellite, in almost real time, by laser.

Sentinel-1A usually orbits our planet 700 km up, only sending data back home when it passes above one its ground stations. But now, the ESA has set up a laser link which allows it to beam data to other geostationary satellites 22,000 miles above Earth which then send it to ground stations that are always in their view.

The result is the ability for Sentinel-1A to transmit data to Earth far more regularly than ever before, in as close to real time as possible. Currently the link between satellites and Earth offers speeds of up to 1.8 Gbps, thought it's hoped it will nudge 7.2 Gbps in the future. [ESA]