Copernicus (Earth Observation Program)

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Copernicus , previously called Global Monitoring for Environment and Security ( GMES , German: Global Environment and Security Monitoring ) is an earth observation program founded in 1998 by the European Commission (EC) and the European Space Agency (ESA) . Copernicus provides an infrastructure for earth observation and geographic information services. Based on earth observation and information technologies, Copernicus created an independent European observation system that has been in operation since 2014. It provides up-to-date information on environmental and safety-related issues. The EU regulation establishing the Copernicus program provides for a budget of € 4.3 billion by 2020.

The program is coordinated by the Copernicus Committee; for Germany the BMVI and the DLR sit in it , for Austria the BMVIT , the BMWFW and the ZAMG .


The Copernicus services are the core of Copernicus. As part of the services, information in six different subject areas is made available to everyone free of charge. This information can also be further processed for various applications. These six Copernicus services are land monitoring, marine environment monitoring, disaster and crisis management, security, atmosphere monitoring ( Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service ) and climate change monitoring.

These services are based on the data supplied by earth observation satellites as well as data from aircraft and ground or sea-based observation infrastructures. The heart of the satellite component are the Sentinel satellites built for Copernicus ; in addition, there is data from other national and commercial contributing missions. Copernicus operations began after the first Sentinel satellite was launched in 2014.

The organization Global Earth Observation System of Systems described the Copernicus system as the most important European contribution to the global monitoring system for earth observation systems.

Land surveillance

The land surveillance service deals with the classic fields of remote sensing and provides data on land cover and thus land use, vegetation, water and energy flows and the cryosphere . Spatially, there are three scales: global, pan-European and local. In addition, so-called reference data are also offered, such as image mosaics, selective land cover images (LUCAS) and terrain models.

For land monitoring are mainly Sentinel-2 satellites with their multispectral s optical sensors used. In the Federal Republic of Germany, the Federal Agency for Cartography and Geodesy and the Federal Environment Agency, as state authorities, use the land surveillance service.


The Copernicus service for security applications is used to monitor EU external borders , "resources" (?) And critical infrastructure. It is also intended to monitor compliance with international agreements and sanctions. The participating states continue to maintain their own military espionage systems. Copernicus provides remote sensing data to the European Border Guard Agency (Frontex), the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) and the European Union Satellite Center (EUSC).

Monitoring the phenomena of climate change

The data of the Copernicus Climate Change Service ( C3S for short ) are produced from a combination of satellite observations, meteorological in-situ measurements and model calculations. Basic climate indicators for the European region are published, such as temperature rise, sea ​​level rise , ice sheet melt, ocean warming and climate indices, based on temperature, precipitation, drought event records, etc.

Access to data and users

Copernicus users include political decision-making bodies . These bodies can use Copernicus services and data to make decisions on environmental issues (including climate change ) at both national and European level and monitor the implementation of the relevant laws. Citizens (researchers, speculators / investors, ..) and initiatives (companies, banks, military, ..) can also help finance and use Copernicus information services. The data of the European Copernicus Earth observation program are freely available to everyone. This was established in 2013 within the framework of the delegated regulation No. 1159/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council.

The evolution of Copernicus

The European Space Agency (ESA), the Commission and several national space agencies signed the “Baveno Manifesto” on May 19, 1998, thus laying the foundation for the development of Copernicus. At that time the initiative was still called "Global Monitoring for Environmental Security". The initiative was renamed Global Monitoring for Environment and Security in 1999 to highlight the implications of security as a key element. In 2001 the GMES concept was approved by the European Council and the European Space Agency. At the Gothenburg summit, politicians called for the European Community to contribute to the creation of the necessary capacities for global monitoring of the environment and security. In February 2004, the Commission published a communication “Building a European Capacity for GMES - Action Plan 2004-2008”. The community and ESA have also signed a framework agreement.

In May 2005 the European Commission published the Communication “GMES: From Concept to Reality” and set the priorities for the introduction of GMES services for 2008. The preliminary focus was on the three fast track services in land service, marine service and emergency service. Further pilot services should follow, in particular services in the field of atmosphere, security and climate change. The Commission opened a GMES office in June 2006 with the aim of securing long-term funding for GMES. Following the adoption of the resolution on European space policy, GMES was recognized in May 2007 as the flagship of the space strategy.

The Commission's communication entitled “GMES: For a Safer Planet”, released November 12, 2008, served as the basis for further discussion on the funding, operational infrastructure and management of GMES. In May 2009 the Commission published a proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the European Earth Observation Program (GMES) and its first operational activities (2011-2013). This proposal created the legal basis for the GMES program and the funding of GMES 'first operational activities (2011-2013). GMES was renamed Copernicus in December 2012. In 2012, the third part of the “GMES Space Component” program was approved by the ESA member states and the Copernicus satellite component was expanded to include Sentinel-5 and Sentinel-6 (Jason-CS).

In 2013, the European Commission's Delegate Regulation No. 1159/2013 regulated the data policy within the framework of Copernicus. Since then, the products of the Copernicus services have been free and openly accessible to everyone. In April 2014, Copernicus took two milestones: The EU regulation establishing the Copernicus program came into force and implemented Copernicus as an operational system in the long term. On April 3, 2014, the first satellite "Sentinel-1A" built especially for Copernicus was launched. On June 23, 2015, the optical satellite "Sentinel-2A" was launched.

Satellite missions

Copernicus comprises satellite missions on the one hand and access to data from existing missions on the other. The seven space missions (some independent satellites, some sensors on other satellites), which ESA developed especially for Copernicus, are known as "Sentinels". These sentinel missions include radar and spectral recordings for land observation and monitoring of the oceans and atmosphere.

  • Sentinel-1 : Radar recordings based on the SAR principle in the C-band (data continuity ERS and Envisat ). Sentinel-1 provides land and marine services with all-weather images as well as day and night images. The first satellite of the Sentinel-1A mission was launched on April 3, 2014. Sentinel-1A has been providing data about the earth since October 2014.
  • Sentinel-2 : high-resolution, multispectral images in the optical range and near IR (data continuity Landsat and SPOT ). Sentinel-2 creates high-resolution optical images for land services (e.g. images of vegetation, soil and water cover, inland waterways and coastal areas). Sentinel-2 will also support the emergency services with information. Astrium is the prime industrial contractor for Sentinel 2 and is responsible for the multispectral instrument. The first satellite was launched on June 23, 2015, and a second, identical one to supplement coverage was launched in March 2017.
  • Sentinel-3 : Infrared radiometry (high-precision temperature measurement), altimetry (height measurement via radar) and multispectral recordings with a ground resolution of 500 to 1000 m. This combination of measurements is important for coastal surveillance, forecasting currents and waves on the seas and for environmental data on land. Sentinel-3 provides recordings and measurements for marine and land surveillance. Sentinel-3A launched on February 16, 2016, Sentinel-3B followed on April 25, 2018.
  • Sentinel-4 : developed as a payload on a third generation Meteosat satellite, will provide data for monitoring the atmosphere. The planned start is in 2021;
  • Sentinel-5 : also provides data for monitoring the atmosphere. Sentinel-5 will be launched as a payload on an EUMETSAT satellite in 2020. A Sentinel-5 Precursor satellite, which carries an instrument with similar characteristics to Sentinel-5, was launched on October 13, 2017.
  • Sentinel-6 : is a satellite altimeter in polar orbit. The mission continues the 20-year series of sea level measurements by TOPEX-Poseidon, Jason -1, Jason-2 and Jason-3 and is therefore also known as Jason-CS (“Continuity of Service”). The start is currently planned for the end of 2020.

The sentinel data are supplemented, especially in the early phases of Copernicus, by contributing missions from ESA, the member states, EUMETSAT and other European and international institutions. Some of these missions generally provide their data free of charge; Datasets from other missions are specially purchased for the Copernicus program - primarily for the Copernicus core services, FP7, or Horizon2020 research projects and public administrations - and made available by ESA via the ESA data warehouse:

  • ERS : The European Remote Sensing Satellite ERS-1 (1991–2000) was ESA's first Earth observation satellite. ERS-2 was launched in 1995 and until 2011 provided data on sea temperature, for determining wind direction and speed, and for measuring the atmospheric ozone distribution.
  • Envisat : Launched in 2002, Envisat (Environmental Satellite) is the largest environmental satellite ever built. On board are instruments for earth observation, u. a. ASAR (Advanced Synthetic Aperture Radar) and MERIS (MEdium Resolution Imaging Specrometer). The most important tasks of the satellite are the monitoring of the land area, the ocean, the atmosphere and the ice layer. ESA member states had unanimously decided to extend the ENVISAT mission until 2013, but in April 2012 communication with the satellite was broken and could no longer be established.
  • The Earth Explorers program consists of small research missions that address specific aspects of our environment. These missions cover the atmosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, cryosphere and the interior of the earth with the aim of learning more about the interactions between these components and the impact of human activities on natural earth processes. There are currently eight missions that have been selected for implementation.
  • MSG Meteosat Second Generation: The second generation Meteosat satellite is operated by the European weather satellite operator EUMETSAT and developed in close cooperation with ESA.
  • MetOp is Europe's first weather satellite with near-Earth polar orbit and is used for operational meteorology. MetOp is a series of three weather satellites that will be launched over a period of 14 years in a row, starting in October 2006. MetOp provides data for operational meteorology and climate observation.
  • SPOT (Satellites Pour l'Observation de la Terre) is a series of earth exploration satellites that provide high resolution images of the earth. SPOT-4 and SPOT-5 contain so-called VEGETATION sensors, which are able to monitor the ecosystem on the mainland.
  • TerraSAR : TerraSAR-X is a satellite for remote sensing of the earth with radar. Data collected by TerraSAR-X can be used in the following areas of use: hydrology (soil moisture, etc.), meteorology, agriculture, forest and land use and environmental protection. TerraSAR-X was launched on June 15, 2007 and started operations in January 2008.
  • COSMO-Skymed / Pleiades : COSMO-SkyMed stands for “Constellation of small satellites for the Mediterranean basin observation” and is a system consisting of four earth exploration satellites that carry an imaging synthetic aperture radar (SAR). Applications of these satellites include a. seismic hazard analysis, environmental disaster monitoring and agricultural mapping. PLEIADES is a network of two satellites that deliver high-resolution images of the earth.
  • DMC : Disaster Monitoring Constellation (DMC) is a network of six earth observation satellites from five countries that provide images for crisis and disaster management within the framework of the International Charter for Space and Natural Disasters.
  • TanDEM-X is a German radar satellite which, together with the TerraSAR-X satellite, is to measure the earth's surface stereographically using SAR interferometry. The launch took place on June 21, 2010.
  • RapidEye consists of five satellites that orbit the earth at an altitude of about 630 km on a common sun-synchronous orbit at approximately equal distances from one another. The satellite system has been developed since 1996 by the Munich space company Kayser-Threde based on ideas from DLR as a lead project for the commercialization of space travel and part of the new German space program. The joint launch of all satellites took place on August 29, 2008.
  • The JASON-2 satellite has been in Earth orbit since June 20, 2008 and provides data for determining ocean surface topography and the height of ocean waves and speeds.

Other relevant initiatives

Other initiatives can also facilitate the development of the Copernicus services:

  • INSPIRE : The Infrastructure for Spatial Information in the European Community (INSPIRE) is an initiative with the aim of creating a European spatial data infrastructure across national borders.
  • SEIS: The Shared Environmental Information System is a joint initiative of the European Commission, the EU member states and the European Environment Agency (EEA) and aims to establish an integrated, Europe-wide environmental information system.

The German Aerospace Center (DLR) in March 2017, the national digital data platform CODE DE ( " Co pernicus D ata and E xploitation Platform - De lish land") enabled. All high-precision satellite data from the European earth observation program Copernicus on changes in the earth's surface, digital maps and other geodata can be called up on this platform. The data is also linked to the mobility, geographic and weather data from the mCLOUD data portal of the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure .

See also

Individual evidence

  1. a b Christian Schweizer: Copernicus - Potentials and Application Examples (PDF, 4 MB). Federal Environment Agency, June 9, 2016.
  2. Land surveillance: Copernicus in Germany. In: Retrieved October 5, 2019 .
  3. Monitoring climate change: Copernicus in Germany. In: Retrieved October 5, 2019 .
  4. a b Delegated Regulation (EU) No. 1159/2013 of the Commission , accessed on March 30, 2016
  5. Evert Attema et al .: Sentinel-1: The Radar Mission for GMES Land and Sea Services. ESA Bulletin No. 131, August 2007 (PDF; 4 MB)
  6. ^ Philippe Martimort et al .: Sentinel-2: The Optical High-Resolution Mission for GMES Operational Services. ESA Bulletin No. 131, August 2007 (PDF; 2.9 MB)
  7. ^ Miguel Aguirre et al .: Sentinel-3: The Ocean and Medium-Resolution Mission for GMES Operational Services. ESA Bulletin No. 131, August 2007 (PDF; 1.9 MB)
  8. ^ ESA: Sentinel-3B liftoff. ESA, April 25, 2018, accessed April 25, 2018 .
  9. ESA: Air quality-monitoring satellite in orbit. ESA, October 13, 2017, accessed April 25, 2018 .
  10. ESA: Earth Explorers - an overview. ESA, accessed April 25, 2018 .
  11. CODE-DE : National Copernicus Access
  12. mCLOUD : Research platform for open data from the BMVI division
  13. New digital platform CODE-DE provides earth observation data , Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure, press release of March 10, 2017, accessed on March 10, 2017

Web links

Copernicus services