Satellite telecommunication is mainly used for commercial purposes. In a bid to enable European industry to remain competitive in a highly competitive global market, ESA's research programmes in telecommunications seek to develop, adjust and carry out demonstration missions with each new generation of the system. These missions under the Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems (ARTES) programme are generally conducted as public-private partnerships with industry.
The following missions are currently in the preparatory phase:
EDRS. The European Data Relay Satellite (EDRS) constellation of satellites will provide Europe with geostationary relay stations. These stations will relay signals from low-orbit satellites and planes in real-time to a ground station without the need to wait for the object to fly directly overhead.
Alphabus/Alphasat. The Alphasat satellite will significantly broaden the current range of services offered by European telecommunications companies. It is expected to generate power equivalent to the simultaneous broadcasting of 1,000 television channels.
Iris. The Iris satellite communication system, which was developed in partnership with the EU and Eurocontrol, should enable a more efficient control of airspace.
SmallGEO. SmallGEO is the "little brother" of the Alphasat. It directly competes with analogous offers from "new" space nations, namely China and India.
IAP. The ARTES-20 Integrated Applications Promotion (IAP) programme seeks to develop integrated applications based on telecommunication, navigation and Earth observation satellites and data gathered from space.
In addition to carrying out demonstration missions and corresponding technological development activities (ARTES-34 and ARTES-5), ESA's telecommunication programmes also include systems studies and market analysis (ARTES-1).