Copernicus Programme

Copernicus Programme

Copernicus, formerly Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES), is a programme of the European Commission which aims at achieving an autonomous, multi-level operational Earth observation capacity. Its cost during 1998 to 2020 is estimated to be 8.4 billion euros. European Space Agency has performed much of its design and oversees and co-funds the development of Sentinel satellites (1,2,3,4 and 5) and instruments for MTG and MetOp-SG weather satellites of EUMETSAT.

The objective is to use multi-source data to get a timely and quality information, services and knowledge, and to provide autonomous and independent access to information in relation to environment and security on a global level. In other words, it will pull together all the information obtained by the Copernicus environmental satellites, air and ground stations to provide a comprehensive picture of the "health" of Earth. The geo-spatial information services offered by Copernicus can be grouped into six main interacting themes: land, ocean, emergency response, atmosphere, security and climate change. The first three Copernicus services under the land, ocean and emergency response themes and two additional services addressing the atmosphere and security themes were unveiled at the Copernicus Forum held in Lille in September 2008. Currently in their pre-operational phase, it is foreseen that these services enter into an EU-wide operational phase by 2011, with the objective to be fully operational by 2014.

Copernicus builds upon 3 components:

  • the space component (observation satellites and associated ground segment with missions observing land, atmospheric and oceanographic parameters) This comprises two types of satellite missions, ESA's five families of dedicated Sentinel (space missions) and missions from other space agencies, called Contributing Missions.
  • in-situ measurements (ground-based and airborne data gathering networks providing information on oceans, continental surface and atmosphere)
  • services to users.


  • History 1
  • Earth Observation missions 2
    • Sentinel missions 2.1
    • Contributing missions 2.2
  • In-Situ Coordination 3
  • Services component 4
  • Users 5
  • Other relevant initiatives 6
  • See also 7
  • Notes 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10


Over the last decades, European and national institutions have made substantial R&D efforts in the field of Earth observation. These efforts have resulted into tremendous achievements but the services and products developed during this period had limitations which were inherent to R&D activities (e.g. lack of service continuity on the long-term).

In 2014-2015 Copernicus is moving towards an operational phase. The key to providing operational Copernicus services is to have an appropriate governance and business model structure in place which supports provisioning of these services. Copernicus has been moving from R&D to operational services, following a phased approach:

  • 2008 – 2010: Copernicus pre-operational services (FTS and Pilot services)
  • 2011 – 2013: Copernicus initial operations
  • From 2014: Copernicus fully operational services

19 May 1998: institutions involved in the development of space activities in Europe give birth to GMES through a declaration known as "The Baveno Manifesto". At that time, GMES stands for "Global Monitoring for Environmental Security"

Year 1999: the name is changed to "Global Monitoring for Environment and Security", thus illustrating that the management of the environment also has security implications.

Year 2001: at the occasion of the Gothenburg Summit, the Heads of State and Government request that "the Community contribute to establishing by 2008 a European capacity for Global Monitoring for Environment and Security".

October 2002: the nature and scope of the "Security" component of GMES are defined as addressing prevention of and response to crises related to natural and technological risk, humanitarian aid and international cooperation, monitoring of compliance with international treaties for conflict prevention, humanitarian and rescue tasks, peacekeeping tasks and surveillance of EU borders.

February 2004: the Commission Communication "GMES: Establishing a GMES capacity by 2008" introduces an Action Plan aimed at establishing a working GMES capacity by 2008. In 2004, a Framework Agreement is also signed between EC and ESA, thus providing the basis for a space component of GMES.

May 2005: the Commission Communication "GMES: From Concept to Reality" establishes priorities for the roll-out of GMES services in 2008, the initial focus being on land monitoring, marine monitoring and emergency response services, also known as Fast Track Services (FTS). Later services, also known as Pilot Services, are expected to address atmosphere monitoring, security and climate change.

June 2006: the EC establishes the GMES Bureau, with the primary objective of ensuring the delivery of the priority services by 2008. Other objectives of the GMES Bureau are to address the issues of the GMES governance structure and the long-term financial sustainability of the system.

May 2007: adoption of the European Space Policy Communication, recognising GMES as a major flagship of the Space Policy.

September 2008: official launch of the 3 FTS services and 2 Pilot services in their pre-operational version at the occasion of the GMES Forum held in Lille, France.

November 2008: the Commission Communication "GMES: We care for a Safer Planet" establishes a basis for further discussions on the financing, operational infrastructure and effective management of GMES.

May 2009: the Commission Proposal for a Regulation on "the European Earth Observation Programme (GMES) and its initial operations (2011-2013)" proposes a legal basis for the GMES programme and EC funding of its initial operations.

November 2010: the regulation on "the European Earth Observation Programme (GMES) and its initial operations (2011-2013)" entered into force.

June 2011: the Commission presents its proposal for the next multiannual financial framework (MFF) corresponding to the period 2014-2020 (Communication “A Budget for Europe 2020”). In this document, the Commission proposes to foresee the funding of the GMES programme outside the multiannual financial framework after 2014.

November 2011: The Commission Communication on the "European Earth monitoring programme (GMES) and its operations (from 2014 onwards)" presents the Commission's proposals for the future funding, governance and operations of the GMES programme for the period 2014 - 2020. In particular, the Commission proposes to opt for the creation of a specific GMES fund, similar to the model chosen for the European Development Fund, with financial contributions from all Member States, based on their Gross National Income (GNI).

December 2012: the Commission announces the name change to Copernicus.

October 2014: ESA and European Commission have established a budget for Copernicus Programme covering years 2014-2020 within Multiannual Financial Framework. Budget provided a total of €4.3 billion, including €3.15 billion for ESA to cover operations of the satellite network and a construction of the remaining satellites.[1][2]

Earth Observation missions

Sentinel missions

ESA is currently developing seven missions under the Sentinel programme. The Sentinel missions include radar and super-spectral imaging for land, ocean and atmospheric monitoring. The Sentinel missions will have the following objectives:

  • Sentinel-1 will provide all-weather, day and night radar imaging for land and ocean services. The first Sentinel-1A satellite was launched on 3 April 2014, by an Arianespace Soyuz, from the Guyana Space Center;[3]
  • Sentinel-2 will provide high-resolution optical imaging for land services (e.g. imagery of vegetation, soil and water cover, inland waterways and coastal areas). Sentinel-2 will also provide information for emergency services. The first Sentinel-2 satellite has successfully launched on 23 June 2015.[4]
  • Sentinel-3 will provide ocean and global land monitoring services. The first Sentinel-3 satellite is planned for launch in 2015;[5]
  • Sentinel-4, embarked as a payload upon a Meteosat Third Generation Satellite, will provide data for atmospheric composition monitoring. It will be launched in 2021;[6]
  • Sentinel-5 Precursor - subset of the Sentinel 5 sensor set planned for launch in 2016.[7] The primary purpose of this is to reduce the data gap (especially SCIAMACHY atmospheric observations) between the loss of ENVISAT in 2012, and the launch of Sentinel-5 in 2021.[8] The measurements will be done by the Tropomi spectroscope.[9]
  • Sentinel-5 will also provide data for atmospheric composition monitoring. It will be embarked on a post-EUMETSAT Polar System (EPS) spacecraft and launched in 2021;[6]
  • Sentinel-6 is the intent to sustain high precision altimetry missions following the Jason-2 satellite.

Contributing missions

Before the Sentinel missions provide data to Copernicus, numerous existing or planned space missions provide or will provide data useful to the provision of Copernicus services. (These missions are often referred to as "GMES Contributing Missions (GCMs)".)

  • ERS: The European Remote Sensing Satellite ERS-1 (1991-2000) was ESA's first Earth observation satellite. ERS-2, launched in 1995, provides data related to ocean surface temperature, winds at sea and atmospheric ozone.
  • Envisat: Launched in 2002, Envisat is the largest Earth Observation spacecraft ever built. It carries sophisticated optical and radar instruments among which the Advanced Synthetic Aperture Radar (ASAR) and the Medium Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MERIS). Envisat provides continuous observation and monitoring of the Earth's land, atmosphere, oceans and ice caps. After losing contact with the satellite on 8 April 2012, ESA formally announced the end of Envisat's mission on 9 May 2012.[10]
  • Earth Explorers: Earth Explorers are smaller research missions dedicated to specific aspects of our Earth environment. Earth Explorer missions focus on the atmosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, cryosphere and the Earth's interior with the overall emphasis on learning more about the interactions between these components and the impact that human activity is having on natural Earth processes. There are 7 missions selected for implementation:
    • GOCE (Gravity Field and Steady-State Ocean Explorer), launched on 17 March 2009.
    • SMOS (Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity), launched on 2 November 2009.
    • CryoSat-2 (measurement of the thickness of floating ice), launched on 8 April 2010.
    • Swarm (high-precision and high-resolution measurements of the strength and direction of the Earth's magnetic field), launched on 22 November 2013.
    • ADM-Aeolus (Atmospheric Dynamics Mission), scheduled for launch in 2017.[11]
    • EarthCARE (Earth Clouds, Aerosols and Radiation Explorer), scheduled for launch in 2018.[11]
    • BIOMASS, scheduled for launch in 2020.[12]
  • MSG: the Meteosat Second Generation is a joint project between ESA and EUMETSAT.
  • MetOp: MetOp is Europe's first polar-orbiting satellite dedicated to operational meteorology. MetOp is a series of three satellites to be launched sequentially over 14 years from October 2006. The series will provide data for both operational meteorology and climate studies.
  • French SPOT: SPOT (Satellite Pour l'Observation de la Terre) consists of a series of earth observation satellites providing high resolution images of the Earth. SPOT-4 and SPOT-5 include sensors called VEGETATION able to monitor continental ecosystems.
  • German TerraSAR-X: TerraSAR-X is an Earth observation satellite providing high quality topographic information. TerraSAR-X data has a wide range of applications (e.g. land use / land cover mapping, topographic mapping, forest monitoring, emergency response monitoring and environmental monitoring)
  • Italian COSMO-SkyMed: the COnstellation of small Satellites for the Mediterranean basin Observation is an Earth observation satellite system which will include four satellites equipped with synthetic aperture radar (SAR) sensors. Applications include seismic hazard analysis, environmental disaster monitoring and agricultural mapping.
  • UK and international DMC: The Disaster Monitoring Constellation (DMC) consists of five remote-sensing satellites. The constellation provides emergency Earth imaging for disaster relief under the International Charter for Space and Major Disasters.
  • French-American JASON-2: The JASON-2 satellite provides precise measurements of ocean surface topography, surface wind speed and wave height; as this type of measurement is a crucial requirement for the Copernicus Marine Services the European Commission has included this type of mission in its latest communication on the future Copernicus Space Component as Sentinel 6
  • French PLEIADES: The PLEIADES constellation consists of two satellites providing very high resolution images of the Earth

Data provided by non-European satellite missions (e.g. LANDSAT, GOSAT, RADARSAT-2) can also be used by Copernicus.

In-Situ Coordination

GMES In-Situ Coordination (GISC). GISC is a FP7 funded initiative, will last for three years (January 2010 – December 2012) and is coordinated by the European Environment Agency (EEA).

In-situ data are all data from sources other than Earth observation satellites. Consequently, all ground-based, air-borne, and ship/buoy-based observations and measurements that are needed to implement and operate the Copernicus services are part of the in-situ component. In-situ data are indispensable; they are assimilated into forecasting models, provide calibration and validation of space-based information, and contribute to analysis or filling gaps not available from space sources.

GISC objectives will be achieved by:

  • documenting the in-situ data needs and data requirements
  • cooperating with the users, stakeholders, and service providers
  • exploring and determining methods to enable networks to provide the required in-situ data for Copernicus
  • exploring approaches to the integration of in-situ assets and networks into long-term sustainable frameworks for Copernicus services
  • providing 'quick-wins'

GISC is undertaken with reference to other initiatives, such as INSPIRE (Infrastructure for Spatial Information in Europe) and SEIS (Shared Environmental Information System) as well as existing coordination and data exchange networks. The coordinated access to data will retain the capacity to link directly data providers and the service providers because it is based on the principles of SEIS and INSPIRE. The implementation of INSPIRE is embedded in the synergies and meta-data standards that are used in GISC. Data and information will aim to be managed as close as possible to its source in order to achieve a distributed system, by involving countries and existing capacities which maintain and operate the required observation infrastructure.

Services component

Copernicus services are dedicated to the monitoring and forecasting of the Earth's subsystems. They contribute directly to the monitoring of climate change. Copernicus services also address emergency management (e.g. in case of natural disaster, technological accidents or humanitarian crises) and security-related issues (e.g. maritime surveillance, border control).

Today, Copernicus services address six main thematic areas:

  • Land Monitoring (see video available on the website: Copernicus Land Monitoring Service). The service was declared operational on 1 April 2012.
  • Marine Environment Monitoring (see video available on the website: Copernicus Marine Environment Monitoring Service). The service will be declared operational in 2015.
  • Atmosphere Monitoring (see video available on the website: Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service). The service will be declared operational in 2015.
  • Emergency Management (see video available on the website: Copernicus Emergency Management Service). The service was declared operational on 1 April 2012.
  • Security (See Copernicus Service for Security Applications)
  • Climate Change (see video available on the website: Copernicus Climate Change Monitoring Service)

The development of the pre-operational version of the services has been realised by a series of projects launched by the European Commission and partly funded through the EU's 7th Framework Programme (FP7). These projects were geoland2 (land), MyOcean (marine), SAFER (emergency response), MACC and its successor MACC II (atmosphere) and G-MOSAIC (security). Most of these projects also contributed to the monitoring of Climate Change.

  • geoland2 started on 1 September 2008. The project covered a wide range of domains such as land use, land cover change, soil sealing, water quality and availability, spatial planning, forest management, carbon storage and global food security.
  • MyOcean started on 1 January 2009. It covered themes such as maritime security, oil spill prevention, marine resource management, climate change, seasonal forecast, coastal activities, ice survey and water pollution.
  • SAFER started on 1 January 2009. The project addressed three main domains: civil protection, humanitarian aid and Security crises management.
  • MACC started on 1 June 2009. The project continued and refined the products developed in the projects GEMS and PROMOTE. A second phase of funding for the pre-operational Copernicus atmospheric monitoring and forecasting service provided by MACC (MACC II) had been secured until July 2014.
  • G-MOSAIC started on 1 January 2009. Together with the LIMES project [2] (co-funded by the European Commission under FP6), G-MOSAIC specifically dealt with the Security domain of Copernicus addressing topics such as Support to Intelligence & Early Warning and Support to Crisis Management Operations.


The system focuses on needs of the European Commission and its agencies. Main users of Copernicus will be for example farmers, rescue workers and scientists. Copernicus should allow policy-makers to prepare national, European and international legislation on environmental matters (including climate change) and to monitor the implementation of this legislation.

Copernicus is the European Union contribution to the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS) thus delivering geospatial information globally.

Other relevant initiatives

Other initiatives will also facilitate the development and functioning of Copernicus services:

  • INSPIRE: this initiative aims at building a European spatial data infrastructure beyond national boundaries.
  • Urban Atlas: Compiled from thousands of satellite photographs, the Urban Atlas provides detailed and cost-effective digital mapping, ensuring that city planners have the most up-to-date and accurate data available on land use and land cover. The Urban Atlas will enable urban planners to better assess risks and opportunities, ranging from threat of flooding and impact of climate change, to identifying new infrastructure and public transport needs. All cities in the EU will be covered by the Urban Atlas by 2011.
  • SEIS: The Shared Environmental Information System (SEIS) is a collaborative initiative of the European Commission and the European Environment Agency (EEA) to establish together with the Member States an integrated and shared EU-wide environmental information system.
  • Heterogeneous Missions Accessibility, the European Space Agency initiative for interoperability of Earth observation satellite payload data ground segments.

Copernicus is one of three related initiatives that are the subject of the GIGAS (GEOSS, INSPIRE and GMES an Action in Support) harmonization and analysis project [13] under the auspices of the EU 7th Framework Programme.[14]

See also


  1. ^ "Copernicus operations secured until 2021". ESA. 28 October 2014. Retrieved 1 August 2015. 
  2. ^ "ESA, European Commission Finalize Copernicus Budget". Via Satellite. 28 October 2014. Retrieved 1 August 2015. 
  3. ^ "Arianespace boosts Sentinel-1A Earth observation satellite into orbit" (Press release). 3 April 2014. Retrieved 21 October 2014. 
  4. ^ "Earth Observation Satellite Sentinel-2A Ready to Launch". European Space Agency (SpaceRef). 9 June 2016. Retrieved 2015-06-10. 
  5. ^ "Sentinel-3 stacks up".  
  6. ^ a b "Copernicus". April 2014. Retrieved 5 May 2014. 
  7. ^ "ESA books Eurockot Launch for Sentinel-5p Satellite". Retrieved 23 February 2015. 
  8. ^ "ESA Sentinels -4, -5 and -5P". Retrieved 23 February 2015. 
  9. ^ "Tropomi". Retrieved 12 August 2014. 
  10. ^ "ESA declares end of mission for Envisat". ESA. 9 May 2012. 
  11. ^ a b de Selding, Peter B. "Cost, Schedule Woes on 2 Lidar Missions Push ESA To Change Contract Procedures". Spacenews. Retrieved 30 May 2015. 
  12. ^ "BIOMASS: ESA's forest mission". ESA. June 2013. Retrieved 2014-04-30.
  13. ^ GIGAS Methodology for comparative analysis of information and data management systems, OGC 10-028r1, A. Biancalana, P.G. Marchetti, P. Smits, 2010
  14. ^ The GIGAS Forum


  • Rheticus. "10 years of GMES: A chronicle". Window on GMES ( 

External links

  • EC Copernicus web site
  • Copernicus R&D website, operated by FDC under a EU-funded service contract (89/PP/ENT/2011 - Lot 1), with participation of SpaceTec Partners for the "Copernicus Observer" e-magazine
  • ESA Copernicus web site
  • Copernicus reference documents
  • GNU (GMES Network of Users)
  • GEO (Group on Earth Observation)
  • SEIS (Shared Environmental Information System)
  • Article upon the 1st GMES Masters
  • GISC Website
  • A video presenting the Copernicus programme is available on the website (Video presenting the Copernicus Programme)