Copernicus is the most ambitious Earth observation programme to date. It will provide accurate, timely and easily accessible information to improve the management of the environment, understand and mitigate the effects of climate change and ensure civil security.
Copernicus is the new name for the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security programme, previously known as GMES.
This initiative is headed by the European Commission (EC) in partnership with the European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Environment Agency (EEA).
ESA coordinates the delivery of data from upwards of 30 satellites, while the EEA is responsible for data from airborne and ground sensors. The EC, acting on behalf of the European Union, is responsible for the overall initiative, setting requirements and managing the services.
The Space Component - managed by ESA - is in its pre-operational stage, serving users with satellite data currently available through the Copernicus Contributing Missions at national, European and international levels. Copernicus will become operational after launch of the first Sentinel mission.
ESA is developing five families of Sentinel missions specifically for Copernicus, the first of which will be ready for launch in spring 2014. The Sentinels will provide a unique set of observations, starting with the all-weather, day and night radar images from Sentinel-1 to be used for land and ocean services.
Sentinel-2 will deliver high-resolution optical images for land services and Sentinel-3 will provide data for services relevant to the ocean and land. Sentinel-4 and Sentinel-5 will provide data for atmospheric composition monitoring from geostationary and polar orbits, respectively.
The ground segment, facilitating access to Sentinel and Contributing Mission data, completes the Copernicus Space Component.
The Space Component forms the European contribution to the worldwide Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS).
The In situ Component is managed by the EEA and focuses on data acquired by a multitude of sensors on the ground, at sea or in the air. These data come from European and non-European organisations.
Copernicus provides a unified system through which vast amounts of data, acquired from space and from a multitude of in situ sensors, are fed into a range of thematic information services designed to benefit the environment, the way we live, humanitarian needs and support effective policy-making for a more sustainable future.
These services fall into six main categories: land management, the marine environment, atmosphere, emergency response, security and climate change.
In essence, Copernicus will help shape the future of our planet for the benefit of all. ESA is contributing by providing a proven framework for the development of operational systems on behalf of the user community, paving the way for investment in future generation systems. ESA is exploiting its 30 years of expertise in space programme development and management to contribute to the success of Copernicus.