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 700km 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 35,000km 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 Gbit/s, thought it’s hoped it will nudge 7.2 Gbit/s in the future. [ESA]