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Copernicus, formerly Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES), is a joint initiative of the European Commission and European Space Agency, which aims at achieving an autonomous and operational Earth observation capacity.
The objective is to rationalize the use of multiple-sources 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. In other words, it will pull together all the information obtained by environmental satellites, air and ground stations to provide a comprehensive picture of the "health" of Earth.
Main users of Copernicus will be policy-makers. Copernicus should allow them to prepare national, European and international legislation on environmental matters (including climate change) and to monitor the implementation of this legislation.
Copernicus builds upon 4 pillars:
- 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)
- data harmonization and standardization, and
- services to users.
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 is fast 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.
A video presenting the Copernicus programme is available on the Copernicus.eu website (Video presenting the Copernicus Programme)
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.
From R&D to operational services
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).
Over the last three years, 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
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 Copernicus.eu website: Copernicus Land Monitoring Service)
- Marine Environment Monitoring (see video available on the Copernicus.eu website: Copernicus Marine Environment Monitoring Service)
- Atmosphere Monitoring (see video available on the Copernicus.eu website: Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service)
- Emergency Management (see video available on the Copernicus.eu website: Copernicus Emergency Management Service)
- Climate Change (see video available on the Copernicus.eu website: Copernicus Climate Change Monitoring Service)
The development of the services is being realised by a series of projects launched by the European Commission and partly funded through the EU's 7th Framework Programme (FP7). These projects are geoland2 (land), MyOcean (marine), SAFER (emergency response), MACC and its successor MACC II (atmosphere) and G-MOSAIC (security). Most of these projects also contribute to the monitoring of Climate Change.
- geoland2 started on 1 September 2008. The project covers 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 covers 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 addresses three main domains: civil protection, humanitarian aid and Security crises management.
- MACC started on 1 June 2009. The project has continued and refined the products developed in the projects GEMS and PROMOTE. A second phase of funding for the pre-operational GMES atmospheric monitoring and forecasting service provided by MACC (MACC II) has been secured until July 2014.
- G-MOSAIC started on 1 January 2009. Together with the LIMES project  (co-funded by the European Commission under FP6), G-MOSAIC specifically deals with the Security domain of GMES addressing topics such as Support to Intelligence & Early Warning and Support to Crisis Management Operations.
ESA is currently developing five types of new satellites called Sentinel to meet the needs of the GMES 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-1 satellite is planned for launch in on 28 March 2014;
- 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 is planned for launch in 2015;
- Sentinel 3 will provide ocean and global land monitoring services. The first Sentinel-3 satellite is planned for launch in 2015;
- Sentinel-4, embarked as a payload upon a Meteosat Third Generation Satellite, will provide data for atmospheric composition monitoring. It will be launched in 2017;
- 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 2019;
- Sentinel-6 is the intent to sustain high precision altimetry missions following the Jason-2 satellite.
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. ESA Member States have unanimously voted to extend the Envisat mission through to 2013.
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 6 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), scheduled for launch in 2013
- ADM-Aeolus (Atmospheric Dynamics Mission), scheduled for launch in 2015
- EarthCARE (Earth Clouds, Aerosols and Radiation Explorer), scheduled for launch in 2017
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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
PLEIADES: The PLEIADES constellation consists of two satellites providing very high resolution images of the Earth
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.
The goal of GISC is to develop an innovative and sustainable framework for open access to in-situ data for Copernicus.
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.
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  under the auspices of the EU 7th Framework Programme.
- GIGAS Methodology for comparative analysis of information and data management systems, OGC 10-028r1, A. Biancalana, P.G. Marchetti, P. Smits, 2010
- The GIGAS Forum
- Rheticus. "10 years of GMES: A chronicle". Window on GMES (BOSS4GMES).
- 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