FOCUS – Client in the spotlight: The European Space Agency in Redu

Belnet provides connectivity for this ground station

Did you know that the first manned flight into space took place exactly 56 years ago? Since then 12 April is celebrated as the “International Day of Human Space Flight”. An ideal moment to highlight the activities of our client ESA Redu Centre.

The European Space Agency (ESA) is a leading institution with 22 member states and a strong cooperation with the European Union.  “Our investments in space activities always have to be of service for citizens in Europe and the rest of the world. That is our mission. This involves job creation, economic growth, public services, efficient communication and safety and of course knowledge about our planet and the universe”, explained Daniele Galardini, head of the ESA centre in Belgium.

Antennas at the ESA Redu Centre
Antennas at the ESA Redu Centre. Photo: ESA - D. Galardini

Diverse activities

ESA has different establishments throughout Europe. Its activities focus on space science , observation of the Earth and its environment, telecommunications, navigation, human spaceflight and exploration. This translates among others into the development of launch vehicles, satellites, launch pads and other facilities on the ground.

The space agency also does significant work in the field of education and knowledge sharing. “For ESA, investment in education is crucial. On the one hand to retain our competitive advantage, on the other to attract future manpower in order to implement European space travel strategy”, added Daniele Galardini.  The ESA ‘Education Programme’ for instance offers university students throughout Europe the chance to follow complementary academic training in areas of ESA’s expertise. Young scientists can also acquire important practical experience by collaborating on the full life cycle of real space projects.

ESA in Belgium: an important ground station

In Belgium, ESA has a centre in Redu as well as a representation office in Brussels.  Approximately 70 people work in the centre close to Redu, a village in the province of Luxembourg. Since it was first set up in 1968, Redu has grown into an important member of a network of ground stations, hosting 50 antennas that operate in a variety of frequency bands and are used to track and to test  telecommunication satellites in the geostationary orbit, Galileo navigation satellites in medium altitude orbits, and Earth observation satellites in low Earth orbits.

An example of the latter category is the PROBA-V satellite that maps the vegetation over the whole planet every two days. The satellite is not just important for studying climate change, but it also has practical applications for agriculture and food supplies. Data are also collected and processed in Belgium by the Flemish Institute for Technological Research (VITO).

The PROBA-V satellite. Photo: ESA - P. Carril

Redu also plays an important role in the educational goals of ESA. In 2015, the centre acquired an e-robotics laboratory where primary and secondary school teachers   gain hands-on knowledge of space robotics and associated sciences such as engineering and IT. The aim is to apply this interactive approach in the classroom and to promote science and technology among pupils.

However, the Redu centre is certainly not only for scientists and teachers; it has also become a tourist attraction where numerous visitors come to admire the high-tech antennas.

Did you know that…

  • ESA’s budget this year amounts to €5.75 billion? European citizens contribute with the equivalent of one cinema ticket in taxes for investments in space activities.
  • The ground station in Redu has a surface area of not less than 29,000 m²?
  • The PROBA-V satellite is not bigger than a washing machine? This satellite is also made entirely in Belgium.

For more information on ESA’s Redu centre, please consult this web page.

Excellent collaboration with Belnet

The Redu centre is part of Estrack, ESA's tracking station network for monitoring and tracking satellites, since the network was established in 1975. Redu has already taken part in a large number of space missions, and has transmitted a wealth of data to the European Space Operations Centre’ (ESOC) in Darmstadt, Germany.

The main control room at ESOC, Darmstadt. Photo: ESA - J. Mai

This transmission uses a high-performance link of the Belnet fibre optic network. “Thanks to Belnet, we can use the academic network in order to connect the Estrack TT&C facilities in Redu with the control centre in Germany. This means that we can enjoy high-quality network services for a competitive price.  All ESA users consider the Belnet network to be very professional”, concludes Daniele Galardini.

ESA Redu has called on the services of Belnet since 2011 and has a 1 Gbit/s (access to the Belnet network) Belnet Leased Line and a 100 Mbit/s broadband connexion.