Infographic showing the systems used to communicate with the International Space Station and how data is relayed to ESA’s Columbus Control Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany. 

Aside from using the Russian and NASA communication systems. astronauts on board the International Space Station are now connecting straight to Europe at light speed, thanks to the European Data Relay System. The satellite picks up signals from the Station as it loops around the Earth every 90 minutes and relays them straight back to its European base station.

The state-of-the-art system provides speeds of up to 50 Mbit/s for downlink and up to 2 Mbit/s for uplink. The communications device which enables it – nicknamed ‘ColKa’ for ‘Columbus laboratory Ka-band terminal’ – was installed during a spacewalk in January 2021.

  • ESA–K. Oldenburg