COPERNICUS Space Component Entering the Operational Phase
Aschbacher, Josef; Milagro-Pérez, M. Pilar

The European Union (EU) and the European Space Agency (ESA) have developed the Copernicus programme, as Europe’s answer to the vital need for joined-up data about our climate, environment and security. Through a unique combination of satellite, atmospheric and Earth-based monitoring systems, the initiative will provide new insight into the state of the land, sea and air, providing policymakers, scientists, businesses and the public with accurate and timely information. To accomplish this, Copernicus has been divided into three main components: Space, In-situ and Services. The Space Component, led by ESA, comprises five types of new dedicated satellites called Sentinels. These missions carry a range of technologies, such as radar and multi-spectral imaging instruments for land, ocean and atmospheric monitoring. While the Sentinel satellites are currently being developed by ESA specifically to meet the needs of Copernicus, the Contributing Missions, operated by national agencies or commercial entities, are already providing a wealth of data for Copernicus services, and will continue to deliver complementary data after the Sentinels are in orbit. An integrated Ground Segment ensures access to Sentinels and Contributing Missions data. Access to Sentinel data is governed by the Sentinel data policy, which is part of a wider Copernicus data and information access policy. The Sentinel data policy envisages free and open access, subject to restrictions only if security or other European interests need to be preserved. As regards the Contributing Missions, the data policy of the mission owners will be respected for the purpose of providing data to Copernicus service users. The first in the fleet of dedicated satellites to be launched at the end of 2013 is Sentinel-1. This is a radar imaging mission and will be engaged in wide range of land and ocean surveillance tasks, such as oil-spill monitoring and earthquake hazard assessment. It will be followed early next year by Sentinel-2 and Sentinel-3, dedicated mainly to the mapping of the Earth’s surface and to the monitoring of ocean temperature and colour. The arrival of the first Sentinel data will provide systematic continuity of data already widely used within the science and application communities. It will also ensure long-term operational commitment and data consistency. The in-situ component, under the coordination of the European Environment Agency (EEA), is composed of atmospheric and Earth based monitoring systems, and based on established networks and programmes at European and international levels. The European Commission is in charge of implementing the services component of Copernicus and of leading the programme overall. The services, fed with data from the Space and In-situ components, will provide essential information in five main domains, atmosphere, ocean and land monitoring as well as emergency response and security. Climate change has been added as a new Copernicus service and cross-cuts all these domains. The Copernicus programme will enter the operational phase in 2014. Even if it has been built to primarily serve operational services, there is a large benefit for science users as well. In addition, science will be crucial to advance services and provide critical input to the definition of new observation systems.