EXPReS will create the first and largest operational e-VLBI network dedicated to astronomy. This will be a unique facility in Europe, incorporating some of the most sensitive radio telescopes in Europe, North America, South America, Africa, Asia and Australia, and will be competitive with similar projects planned in Australia and Japan. The creation of a real-time e-VLBI network will represent an important step forward for European astronomy and will be a technological pathfinder for future, next generation instruments, such as the Square Kilometre Array (SKA). The SKA is included in the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) "list of opportunities" as one of the large global projects that might be developed within FP7. In particular, the technology (both software and hardware) developed for EXPReS will address various issues that are relevant to SKA, including distributed data processing (both data correlation and data analysis) and station-to-station communication over distances of up to 4000 km.
Elements of EXPReS may have a much wider impact, particularly in advanced network development. e-VLBI data transfers are already exercising high-speed networks such as GÉANT2 and discovering new and more efficient ways of transferring data using new or modified communication protocols. EXPReS has already pioneered the use of lambda switching with the first e-VLBI tests between the UK and Dwingeloo. These innovations should have widespread application, not only in the research community but also the wider-society, improving everyday Internet connectivity and, in particular, high bandwidth video and high fidelity audio applications.
With up to 16 telescopes connected by high-bandwidth fibre optic networks, EXPReS will also provide astronomers real-time observation of unparalleled power and resolution. Increased sensitivity will enable scientific discovery and research of fainter astronomical sources, and improved flexibility will allow for rapid follow-up observations of transient events and high precision tracking of spacecraft. Scientific and related engineering results from EXPReS will appear in refereed journals and conference proceedings, and all astronomy related results will also appear on the astro-ph preprint server.