Copernicus (European Commission's Earth Observation Program) / formerly GMES
GMES (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security) is a European initiative put forward by the EC (European Commission) in October 1998 (Baveno Manifesto, Baveno/Lago Maggiore, Italy) with the objective to determine Europe's global monitoring role in the field of the environment and security. The EC had invited a group of space agencies/organizations: ASI (Agenzia Spaziale Italiana), BNSC (British National Space Centre), CNES (Centre National D'Etudes Spatiales, France), DLR (German Aerospace Center), EASC (European Air and Space Conference), ESA (European Space Agency, and Eumetsat (European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites, Darmstadt, Germany). 1)
The goal of GMES is to develop operational information services on a global scale, using both space- and ground-based monitoring systems, in support of environment and security policy needs. Overall, GMES will contribute to the European Strategy for Sustainable Development. The GMES program was endorsed at the Gothenborg (Sweden) Summit in June 2001 by the Heads of State and Government of the countries of the European Union (EU). An exploratory initial period, undertaken jointly by the EC and ESA, took place between 2001 and 2003.
Table 1: Copernicus is the new name of the former GMES program 2)
A GMES Program Office (GPO) and a GMES Advisory Council (GAC) have been set up in early 2004. The GAC is an ad hoc advisory interface between the EC, ESA and their member states. Also in 2004, ESA initiated studies to explore the technical aspects of the Space Component of GMES based on user requirements. The ESA Space Council meeting at ministerial level in Berlin, Germany (Dec. 5-6, 2005), confirmed again that the GMES program will be the second flagship of space policy after Galileo. 3) 4) 5) 6) 7) 8) 9) 10) 11) 12) 13) 14)
The EEA (European Environmental Agency) and its European Topic Centers (ETCs) coordinate and harmonize the collection of data within the framework of the EIONET (European Environment Information and Observation Network) with the involvement of about 300 institutions in EEA member states.
Key issues in this field include the monitoring of:
• International environmental conventions (environmental issues of a global nature). The EU has signed more than 40 international treaties to bring forward a more global dimension to environment and security (e.g. biodiversity, global change, desertification). The “Kyoto Protocol” is an example of “treaty monitoring” requirements. NATO and its Member States are increasingly concerned with non-traditional threats to security, including the consequences of environmental change.
• Environmental stress (environmental issues of a regional nature). Environmental stress poses a potential threat to security at all geographic levels. Taking preventative action on environmental stress is the most appropriate approach to preventing environmental conflicts.
• Risks and natural disasters/hazards (including humanitarian help). The major topics of natural hazards are: earthquakes, landslides and avalanches, volcanoes, forest fires, and floods. The service of forest fire detection and monitoring (including risk evaluation) is an important activity in this category.
GMES has been identified as a priority for Europe. It is an initiative set up jointly by the European Commission (EC) and the European Space Agency (ESA). The EC has expressed its intention to take the lead for the development and operation of GMES in the long term. ESA is in charge of implementing the GMES Space Component. A general cooperative EC-ESA agreement on the GMES initiative functions and services was signed on Oct. 27, 2005.
Realizing the importance and enormous challenges in coordinating the services and functions of the various space missions for the GMES user community - a 'Ground Segment Coordination Body' (GSCB) of all agencies in the EU member states was established in June 2005. The initial goals are to coordinate the ground segment and data management of the most important European (including Canadian) Earth observation missions in the GMES timeframe. These comprise the existing and planned ESA and EUMETSAT missions as well as the larger and important planned national missions, which will be operational in the early phase of GMES and are committed to contribute to GMES services. 15)
In March 2006, a GMES Bureau was established, set up within the Directorate-General for Enterprise and Industry of the European Commission. The GMES Bureau is responsible for creating an implementation strategy for GMES, developing a federated and structured demand for GMES services across the Commission and promoting GMES to both stakeholders and the wider general public. 16)
The goal of the GMES strategy is to establish by 2008 a European capacity which, through technological, institutional and political support will fully meet those objectives. The overall GMES architecture comprises four major elements: services, space observations, in situ observations, and data integration and information management.
In Feb. 2010, the EC set up the GMES Partners Board. The goal of the GMES Partners Board is to assist the Commission in the overall coordination of GMES. The tasks of this Board will include the following:
- To establish cooperation between Member States bodies and the Commission on questions related to GMES
- To assist the Commission in monitoring the coherent implementation of the GMES program
- To assist the Commission with the preparation of a strategic implementation framework of the GMES program
- To bring about an exchange of experience and good practice in the field of GMES and Earth observation.
Table 2: GMES is a EU led initiative with component responsibilities provided by various agencies (Ref 13)
November 2020: For a better overview
of the Copernicus program, the status has been moved from the back to
the front of the file.
Copernicus program status
• April 26, 2021: The Copernicus Masters 2021 competition is now open for submissions. This international competition awards prizes to innovative solutions, developments and ideas for business and society that use satellite data from the Copernicus program. 18)
- The Copernicus program offers free and near real-time access to data that substantially contribute to socio-economic benefits, as well as smart and sustainable growth. The program fosters the development of innovative solutions in many domains and helps to achieve the priorities of the European Union, such as the Green Deal, making Europe fit for the digital age.
- Over the past 10 years, ESA and Germany’s AZO (Anwendungszentrum) GmbH have organized the annual Copernicus Masters competition, along with the support of world-class partners, to inspire and help entrepreneurs bring their innovations forward.
Figure 1: Copernicus Masters ESA Digital Twin Earth Challenge 2021 (video credit: ESA)
- From now until 19 July, participants can submit their innovative ideas for the use of Earth observation data across 10 different topics and challenges including artificial intelligence, machine learning, cloud computing, data analytics, smart farming and maritime.
- This year, the ESA Digital Twin Earth Challenge looks for proposals that use artificial intelligence and machine learning to provide solutions for key societal challenges, including food security, climate adaptation as well as pollution monitoring and prevention.
- ESA’s Acting Director of Earth Observation Programs, Toni Tolker-Nielsen, said, “The Copernicus Sentinel satellite family is expanding at a rapid pace generating fantastic data. Every year, ESA opens the Copernicus Masters Challenge to solicit fresh and ground-breaking proposals of how they can be applied in research and stimulate new business ideas.
- The time is ripe for the latest generation of start-ups and young scientists to take this opportunity to the next level and show us where Earth observation innovation can lead in terms of the impact it can make, and its market potential.”
- Together with cash prizes, challenge and prize winners will receive access to an international ecosystem of leading Earth observation organisations, substantial satellite data quotas, and business development support worth more than €835,000. The overall winner will receive an additional cash prize of €10,000.
- For full details about how to enter and the range of prizes, please visit the Copernicus Masters website.
• December 10, 2020: Reef Support (Kaya Oro, Dutch Caribbean) won this year’s Copernicus Masters competition, and were honored during the online Space Awards on 8 December as part of the European Space Week 2020. The innovative idea uses Copernicus Sentinel data and artificial intelligence to detect coral bleaching, algal blooms, sediment plumes and human debris. 19)
- The vast amount of data produced by the Copernicus program hold great potential for companies, entrepreneurs and start-ups to create sustainable solutions. Celebrating its 10th iteration in 2020, the Copernicus Masters competition awarded prizes in 22 categories to outstanding products and services based on Earth observation data.
Figure 2: Reef Support team. The Team of Reef Support won the 2020 Copernicus Masters competition. From left to right: Crystle Wee, Yohan Runhaar, Marcel Kempers, Marijn van der Laan, Eilidh Radcliff. The innovative idea uses Copernicus Sentinel data and artificial intelligence to detect coral bleaching, algal blooms, sediment plumes and debris (image credit: Reef Support)
- This year’s overall winner, Reef Support, utilizes satellite imagery with artificial intelligence to track coastal reef health and provide guidelines for crowd and pollution control, debris management, and coral restoration.
- Coral reefs around the world are not only crucial to maritime biodiversity, as they provide a home to many species of fish, algae, and other marine life, but they also have great economic significance as rich fishing grounds, attractive tourist destinations, and natural coastal protection barriers.
- Reef Support’s platform addresses both the environmental and economic aspects at hand with state-of-the art technology. Its user-friendly online monitoring and maintenance tool combines different types of data to form a picture of reef ecology across a wide range of spatial and temporal scales.
- The platform can also be used for strategic planning and resource management in aquaculture farming. Its deep learning algorithm adapts to user applications and regional tendencies.
- The Copernicus Masters 2020 competition saw 591 participants from 47 countries submit 220 new Earth observation business cases and application ideas. It included several different challenges, including the ESA Digital Twin Earth Challenge – looking for solutions that use artificial intelligence and big data to provide solutions to key societal challenges such as smart cities, food security, health issues, tourism and leisure, as well as coastal monitoring.
Figure 3: The winners of the ESA Digital Twin Earth Challenge: Urban Green from Earth Observation (U-GEO). U-GEO is an algorithm based on machine learning that combines Copernicus Sentinel data with urban planning, resource management, and green infrastructure. It is designed to help create efficient green infrastructure and continuously monitor vegetation health conditions and performance (image credit: U-GEO)
- The winning idea was Urban Green from Earth observation (U-GEO). U-GEO is an algorithm, based on machine learning, that combines Copernicus Sentinel data with urban planning, resource management, and green infrastructure. It is designed to help create efficient green infrastructure and continuously monitor vegetation health conditions and performance.
- The winners of the various challenges were congratulated at the ceremony by industry and institutional representatives from ESA, the European Commission, the German Aerospace Center (DLR), Planet, BayWa AG, Airbus and sobloo, the German Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI), and AZO Anwendungszentrum GmbH Oberpfaffenhofen, the organizer of the Copernicus Masters on behalf of ESA.
• November 2020: The most ambitious and comprehensive plans ever for the European space sector, were approved at the end of 2019 at the ESA Space19+ ministerial conference in Seville, Spain, with a total budget of €14.5 billion for ESA (European Space Agency) for the next three years – a 20% increase over the previous three-year budget. The decision allows a direct uplift to Europe’s Earth observation capability, expanding Copernicus – the European Union’s flagship Earth observation program – with a suite of new, high-priority satellite missions. In this explainer we delve into the improvements and what they mean for sustainability and climate science. 20)
The Sentinel System – new and improved
At the center of the next-generation program sits the Copernicus Space Component (CSC), which includes a family of satellites known collectively as Sentinels. These spacecraft provide routine atmospheric, oceanic, cryosphere and land global monitoring data, which are made freely available for Copernicus Services and major research and commercial applications such as precision farming, environmental hazards monitoring, weather forecasting and climate resilience.
The soon-to-be-expanded Sentinel system will incorporate six high-priority missions. Set to launch from 2025, each will bring new sensing capabilities.
• Copernicus Anthropogenic CO2 Monitoring (CO2M): This mission will track individual sources of anthropogenic emissions of CO2 with a relatively high spatial-resolution imaging spectrometer.
• Copernicus Land Surface Temperature Monitoring (LSTM): To monitor land surface temperature and rates of evapotranspiration in unprecedented detail via its thermal infrared radiometer.
• Copernicus PolaR Ice and Snow Topography ALtimeter (CRISTAL): To chart sea-ice thickness and snow depth, as well as ice elevation on land equipped with radar instruments.
• Copernicus Imaging Microwave Radiometer (CIMR): A marine-focused mission providing observations of sea-ice concentration, sea-surface temperature and salinity via passive microwave sensing.
• Copernicus Hyperspectral Imaging Mission for the Environment (CHIME): Enhancing services for land-cover mapping,agricultural management and coastal mapping and management, with hyper-spectral imaging.
• Radar Observing System for Europe – L-band (ROSE-L): A mission to support forest management, monitor soil moisture, and discriminate crop types equipped with an L-band radar sensor.
What does this mean for sustainability and climate science?
These new missions will complement the Sentinels and advance our knowledge about large-scale changes to the planet from natural and human activities. Some examples follow.
Improved knowledge of emissions: The inability to monitor atmospheric carbon dioxide resulting from human activity at national and regional scales, is a major knowledge gap that was identified at COP-21 in Paris in 2015, and still remains problematic today. The CO2M mission will help address this issue by providing measurements to reduce current uncertainties in emissions estimates. Moreover, these new data will provide a unique and independent source of information to help assess the effectiveness of climate policy measures, and to track their impact towards decarbonizing Europe and meeting national emission reduction targets.
Monitoring changes in the Arctic - Over the past few decades, global warming has led to widespread shrinking of the cryosphere. As detailed in the 2019 Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere we are seeing accelerating warming in the polar and high-mountain regions and reduced mass of ice sheets, ice caps and glaciers, reduced snow cover and Arctic sea ice extent and thickness. With increasingly rapid ocean and polar cryosphere transitions predicted in the near-term, it is critical to adequately monitor these sensitive regions as changes here will extend to the whole planet, with predominantly negative impacts on food security, water resources, ecosystems, livelihoods, health, as well as on the culture of human societies, particularly for Indigenous peoples. Future losses from polar ice sheets remain the largest uncertainty in global climate and sea level projects, whilst their scale and remote, hostile location make satellite measurements the only solution for tracking change. The deployment of CIMR and CRISTAL will ensure continuity of cryospheric observations at this crucial time.
Advancing the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG): The SDGs provide a framework for global peace and prosperity, encompassing (among other aims) food security, sustainable water management and combating climate change and its impacts. To meet the commitment of achieving these goals by 2030, and to take action, decision-makers need empirical evidence on processes and changes in land and water systems and on their socioeconomic and human health impacts. The LSTM, ROSE-L and CHIME missions will improve our ability to monitor forests, biodiversity, agricultural land, and changes in the water and energy cycles to understand in more detail changes happening in both space and time, in support of the UN SDG goals for more sustainable allocation and use of resources.
• November 13, 2020: Today, ESA signed contracts with Thales Alenia Space in France and in Italy, and Airbus in Spain to build three of the new high-priority Copernicus satellite missions: CHIME, CIMR and LSTM, respectively. Each mission is set to help address different major environmental challenges such as sustainable agriculture management, food security, the monitoring of polar ice supporting the EU Integrated Policy for the Arctic, and all will be used to understand climate change. 21)
Figure 4: Contracts signed for three high-priority Copernicus environmental missions. There are six Copernicus high-priority Sentinel Expansion missions planned to complement the current capabilities of the Sentinels and address EU policy priorities and gaps in Copernicus user needs. Each mission is set to help address different major environmental challenges such as sustainable agriculture management, food security, the monitoring of polar ice supporting the EU Integrated Policy for the Arctic, and all will be used to understand climate change (image credit: Pixabay)
- There are six Copernicus high-priority Sentinel Expansion missions planned to complement the current capabilities of the Sentinels and address EU policy priorities and gaps in Copernicus user needs.
- The development and operations of these Sentinel Expansion missions will be co-financed between the European Commission and ESA, subject to budget availability. These new industrial contacts kick off the key design phases for the missions, with the continuation to be confirmed in 2021.
- ESA has recently signed contracts for the development of two of the other six missions: the Copernicus Carbon Dioxide Monitoring mission and the Copernicus Polar Ice and Snow Topography Altimeter mission.
- These three new contracts also come at a time when industry and business are suffering from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- ESA’s Director of Earth Observation Programs, Josef Aschbacher, said, “We are thrilled to sign these contracts with industry today. Not only because once built, each mission will address real environmental challenges and further Europe’s flagship Copernicus program, but also because we need to help keep our industrial partners in good shape during COVID-19, which has brought untold damage to the economy and employment security.
- “Despite the issues surrounding COVID-19, it is critical that we continue forging new space technologies, and continue developing, building and launching satellites that lead to new knowledge and services that ultimately benefit all humankind.”
- With a contract worth €455 million, Thales Alenia Space France will lead the development of the CHIME (Copernicus Hyperspectral Imaging Mission for the Environment). The contract was signed in the presence of Bruno Le Maire, French Minister of the Economy and Finance. The mission will carry a unique visible to shortwave infrared spectrometer.
- It will provide routine hyperspectral observations to support new and enhanced services for sustainable agricultural and biodiversity management, as well to characterize soil properties, which is key to vegetation health. The mission will complement Copernicus Sentinel-2 for applications such as land-cover mapping.
- ESA signed the contract for the development of the CIMR (Copernicus Imaging Microwave Radiometer), mission with Thales Alenia Space Italy in the presence of the Under Secretary of the Council of Ministers of Italy, Riccardo Fraccaro. The contract is worth €495 million.
- Carrying a novel ‘conically-scanning’ multi-frequency microwave radiometer, the mission will measure sea-surface temperature, sea-ice concentration and sea-surface salinity. It will also observe a wide range of other sea-ice parameters such as sea-ice thickness and sea-ice drift. CIMR is being developed in response to high-priority requirements from key Arctic user communities and will support the EU Integrated Policy for the Arctic.
- The contract, worth €380 million,for the Copernicus LSTM (Land Surface Temperature Monitoring) mission, was signed with Airbus Spain in the presence of Pedro Duque, Spanish Minister of Science and Innovation.
- It marks the first time that Spain will lead the development of a Copernicus Sentinel mission. LSTM will carry a high spatial-temporal thermal-infrared sensor to deliver observations of land-surface temperature. Satellite data analysis for mapping, monitoring and forecasting Earth's natural resources helps to understand what, when and where changes are taking place. In particular, this mission will respond to the needs of European farmers to make agricultural production more sustainable as water shortages increase and changes in the environment take place.
- While these contracts are for the development of these three new exciting missions, full implementation relies on further agreements. This includes an agreement between ESA and the European Commission, including a joint positive decision by the Commission and ESA and their Member States to go from Phase B2 to Phase C/D for the prototype missions and to procure the recurrent satellite units. This decision point is planned in the second half of 2021.
- The European Copernicus flagship program provides Earth observation and in situ data, as well as a broad range of services for environmental monitoring and protection, climate monitoring and natural disaster assessment to improve the quality of life of European citizens.
- Copernicus is the biggest provider of Earth observation data in the world – and while the EU is at the helm of this environmental monitoring program, ESA develops, builds and launches the dedicated satellites. It also operates some of the missions and ensures the availability of data from third party missions.
- The European Commission’s Head of Unit for Earth Observation, Mauro Facchini, said, “Built on cooperation between the European Commission and ESA, Copernicus has been an outstanding success not only for Europe, but also for the rest of the world. Key environmental data and derived products are freely available for services and data users to improve the daily lives of all citizens. We are extremely pleased that these contracts are an important step towards the expansion of the suite of satellites delivering critical information, furthering the Copernicus program as a whole.”
• July 21, 2020: The European Commission slashed its space budget for the next seven years, agreeing to a maximum of 13.2 billion ($15.2 billion) focused mainly on continuing the Galileo and Copernicus satellite programs. 22)
Figure 5: Ursula von der Leyen (center), president of the European Commission, the executive branch of the European Union (image credit: European Commission)
- The budget cut for space came as part of extensive four-day negotiations in Brussels over a 1.8-trillion-euro budget for the entire European Union designed in large part to offset the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.
- The 27-nation bloc agreed July 21 to a baseline budget of 1.07 trillion euros, which includes the space budget, coupled with a 750-billion-euro recovery package of grants and loans. The budget goes into effect Jan. 1, but must first be approved by the European Parliament.
- The EC had pushed in 2018 and 2019 for member states to finance a space budget totaling 16 billion euros, a nearly 50% increase over the budget from 2014 to 2020.
- In May, as discussions shifted toward a pandemic recovery package, the EC issued a revised budget proposal with 15.2 billion euros for space. That reduction reflected a push by some member states, notably Finland, for a smaller budget to account for the loss of British funding after the U.K. left the bloc in January, Luigi Scatteia, head of PwC’s Space Practice, told SpaceNews.
- A second cut resulting in the current 13.2-billion-euro was surprising, he said in a July 21 interview.
- “Clearly it was to be expected that a reduction in spending would impact space as well, but to me it’s a little bit more than I was expecting,” he said.
- The approved EC budget allocates 8 billion euros for Europe’s Galileo global navigation satellite system, and 4.81 billion for Copernicus environmental monitoring satellites.
- The remaining 392 million euros will likely be split between GovSatCom, an initiative aimed at providing secure satellite communications for EC members, and on European space situational awareness (SSA) investments, experts said.
- “GovSatCom and SSA are suffering the most in this proposal, then Copernicus,” said Pierre Lionnet, research director at Eurospace, a trade group representing European space companies. “Basically they are saving Galileo as much as they can.”
- Europeans are more aware of Galileo and its benefits than of Copernicus, Lionnet said, which may have made it difficult to justify increased investment for the latter.
- Earlier this month the European Space Agency selected manufacturers for six future Copernicus missions funded with 2.55 billion euros from the agency. The funding is enough for Airbus, Thales Alenia Space and OHB to start building satellites, but a full go-ahead decision is not expected until the second half of 2021 when ESA and the European Union decide how to co-finance the program.
• July 03, 2020: Following the financial commitment from ESA Member States at last November’s Council at Ministerial Level Space19+, ESA’s industrial policy committee has approved contracts totalling €2.55 billion to forward the development of six new Copernicus satellite missions, each mission comprising two satellites, a development and a recurrent unit. 23)
- The overall package is co-funded by the EU and ESA Member States, and relies on future funding from the EU Multiannual financial framework.
- The approval provides the green light to start industrial contracts for the six missions. However, two important milestones need to be met before the missions can be fully developed: an agreement between ESA and the EU for the EU co-funded part of the program, and a positive decision by the EC as well as ESA/EU Member States to go from Phase B2 to Phase C/D.
- This decision point is planned in the second half of 2021.
- Copernicus is the biggest provider of Earth observation data in the world – and while the EU is at the helm of this environmental monitoring program, ESA develops, builds and launches the dedicated satellites. It also operates some of the missions and ensures the availability of data from third party missions.
- Copernicus is often quoted as a prime example how the European Commission and ESA can successfully work together in space, making perfect use of each other’s strengths.
- The current suite of Sentinel missions are at the heart of the program. Data from the Sentinels feed into the Copernicus Services, which help address challenges such as food security, air pollution, rising sea levels, diminishing polar ice, natural disasters and, importantly, climate change.
The missions planned
- Looking to the future, six high-priority candidate missions will expand the current capabilities of the Sentinels and address EU policy priorities and gaps in Copernicus user needs.
- The new industrial contracts now kick off the key design phases (Phase B) for these six missions.
- The Copernicus Anthropogenic Carbon Dioxide Monitoring, CO2M, mission will carry a near-infrared and shortwave-infrared spectrometer to measure atmospheric carbon dioxide produced by human activity. OHB-System Germany will lead the development with a contract value of €445 million.
- The Copernicus Hyperspectral Imaging Mission, CHIME, will carry a hyperspectral imager to return detailed information for sustainable agricultural and biodiversity management. Thales Alenia Space France will lead the development with a contract value of €455 million.
- The Copernicus Imaging Microwave Radiometer, CIMR, mission will carry a microwave radiometer to provide observations of sea-surface temperature, sea-ice concentration and sea-surface salinity. Thales Alenia Space Italy will lead the development with a contract value of €495 million.
- The Copernicus Polar Ice and Snow Topography Altimeter, CRISTAL, mission will carry a multifrequency radar altimeter and microwave radiometer to measure and monitor sea-ice thickness and overlying snow depth. Airbus Defence and Space Germany will lead the development with a contract value of €300 million.
- The Copernicus Land Surface Temperature Monitoring, LSTM, mission will carry a high spatial-temporal resolution thermal infrared sensor to provide observations of land-surface temperature for sustainable agriculture and to predict drought. Airbus Defence and Space Spain will lead the development with a contract value of €375 million.
- The L-band Synthetic Aperture Radar, ROSE-L, mission will carry an L-band synthetic radar altimeter that penetrates through materials such as vegetation, to support forest management and to monitor subsidence and soil moisture. Thales Alenia Space Italy will lead the development with a contract value of €482 million.
- ESA’s Director General, Jan Wörner, said, “With us concerned about issues such as climate change, Europe’s Copernicus program and the Sentinel missions play a pivotal role in providing free and open data to manage the environment.
- “These new contracts are the next step in ensuring the family of Copernicus satellites expands to deliver vital information that will ultimately help protect the environment and citizens alike.”
- European Commission’s Deputy-Director General for Space, Pierre Delsaux, noted, “Copernicus is a European success story and the cooperation between the European Commission and ESA is exemplary in implementing this program. These new Copernicus satellite missions will not only provide key information for European citizens and decision makers to support the implementation of the European Green Deal, but also to further contribute to the EU’s Digital Agenda.”
- ESA’s Director of Earth Observation Programs, Josef Aschbacher, added, “These contracts for the development of the high-priority missions is also a really important step for industry in our Member States, particularly as we are living in times of COVID-19 where there is a lot of uncertainty.
- “We now also look forward to the second half of next year, at the end of Phase B2 of development, when we hope to get commitment from the EU and our Member States to fully develop these new exciting missions.”
• June 12, 2020: The Copernicus EMS (Emergency Management Service) uses Planet data to help provide emergency response mapping services for a variety of disaster situations, ranging from geophysical and meteorological hazards to humanitarian and man-made crises. 24)
- When events occur, authorized users can alert Copernicus EMS to an emergency location, and the service provides satellite-derived products for quick and effective response. It also provides information that can aid in disaster preparedness, prevention and recovery.
- Copernicus EMS is managed by the European Commission and operated by the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission. The European Space Agency (ESA) is responsible for providing satellite data for the requested products, both from Sentinel missions and from commercial data providers. Planet and ESA entered into an agreement allowing ESA to access both PlanetScope and SkySat as one of the Copernicus Contributing Missions—with the aim of combining Planet data with information gleaned from Sentinel satellites.
- As Copernicus EMS has access to Planet’s SkySat constellation—which will have increased rapid revisit capabilities due to the upcoming launch of more SkySats—the service is able to provide governments and other organizations with critical geospatial information within hours or days of a disaster, charting changes in near-real time. With access to Planet’s extensive PlanetScope and SkySat imagery archive, Copernicus EMS is also able to supply organizations with imagery of a location before an event occurs. This allows the service to provide risk and recovery maps and an early warning and monitoring component, which includes support in case of droughts, wildfires and floods.
Figure 6: The service connects decision-makers with the critical geoinformation they need, empowering them to assess situations with more clarity and make educated decisions (image credit: Copernicus EMS)
• December 5, 2019: Green City Watch won this year’s Copernicus Masters competition in a ceremony held yesterday at the European Space Week in Helsinki, Finland. Using Copernicus Sentinel satellite data, this application combines big data from space with artificial intelligence to measure the quality of green urban spaces. 25)
- The vast amounts of data produced by the Copernicus program hold great potential for companies, entrepreneurs and start-ups. The Copernicus Masters competition awards outstanding products and applications using Earth observation data to tackle environmental challenges and global challenges – such as climate change.
- This year’s overall winner aims to change the way nature and biodiversity is valued. Green City Watch can quantify the CO2 uptake of urban green spaces on a global scale, as well as identify and monitor ecological improvements to parks.
- By combining high-resolution satellite data with machine learning and artificial intelligence, Green City Watch provides actionable insights into green spaces to managers of urban green space areas, including real estate developers and landscape architecture firms.
- The application uses satellite data from the Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission for vegetation analytics, Sentinel-1 SAR imagery to assess urban flood risks, as well as SkySat and RapidEye to map illegal tree removal.
- The overall prize was awarded by ESA’s Director General, Jan Wörner, who commented, “The Copernicus Masters has proven to be an excellent example for boosting economic growth and tackling global challenges for our planet.”
- “I am proud that this innovation competition is always one step ahead in addressing the latest state-of-the-art topics, with this year’s winning solutions now focusing on AI and other disruptive Earth observation technologies of the future.”
- The Copernicus Masters competition included several different challenges. This year, the ESA Copernicus 4.0 Challenge looked for solutions that reflected on the upcoming ‘golden era’ in Earth observation, demonstrating how new trends can work together with traditional Earth observation satellites.
- The winning idea was ConstellR – Taking our Planet’s Temperature During Climate Change - a high-resolution monitoring service that aims to enable a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. The winner took away a €10 000 prize, as well as the possibility to access €10 000 worth of data from the Copernicus Contributing Missions.
Figure 7: Green City Watch was announced as overall winner of the 2019 Copernicus Masters competition in a ceremony held on 4 December at the European Space Week in Helsinki, Finland. Using Copernicus Sentinel satellite data, this application combines big data from space with artificial intelligence to measure the quality of green urban spaces. - The prize was awarded by ESA’s Director General, Jan Wörner (center), who commented, “The Copernicus Masters has proven to be an excellent example for boosting economic growth and tackling global challenges for our planet.”(image credit: AZO)
- Other challenge winners were congratulated at the ceremony by industry and institutional representatives, such as the European Commission, the German Aerospace Center (DLR), Planet, BayWa AG, Astrosat Ltd., Airbus and sobloo, the German Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI), and AZO Anwendungszentrum GmbH Oberpfaffenhofen, the organizer of the Copernicus Masters on behalf of ESA.
Figure 8: The victorious group of the 2019 edition of the Copernicus Masters took home prizes worth more than € 450,000 in total. These included cash, consulting, data packages and other assistance, designed to help the winners refine their ideas for a possible market launch at one of ESA’s BICs (Business Incubation Centers), image credit: AZO)
• November 26, 2019: Today, ESA and Spain’s CDTI (Centre for the Development of Industrial Technology) signed an understanding that will boost Spain’s access to Copernicus Sentinel data. 26)
Figure 9: ESA and CDTI have signed an understanding that will boost Spain’s access to Copernicus Sentinel data. Under the agreement, Spain will establish a national data center which will source its data directly from a dedicated distribution point that is reserved for ESA Member States and Copernicus Participating States. ESA will also provide technical support to ensure the national center benefits from the enhanced download capabilities. The understanding was signed by Jan Wörner (center left), Director General of ESA, and by Javier Ponce (center right), Director General of CDTI (image credit: ESA)
- Under the agreement, Spain will establish a national data center which will source its data directly from a dedicated distribution point that is reserved for ESA Member States and Copernicus Participating States. ESA will also provide technical support to ensure the national center benefits from the enhanced download capabilities.
- The understanding was signed by Jan Wörner, Director General of ESA, and by Javier Ponce, Director General of CDTI, as ESA’s ‘Space19+’ Ministerial Council gets underway in Seville, Spain.
- While ESA ensures all European citizens are able freely to download Copernicus Sentinel data through ESA’s Copernicus Open Access Hub, ESA Member States and Copernicus Participating States are able to benefit from a dedicated distribution point that allows them to download higher quantities of data in one go. This enables them quickly to amass large stocks of data in national data centers, which their citizens are then able to exploit as local demand requires.
- The Copernicus program is led by the European Commission. ESA is responsible for the ‘space component’, which not only includes the Copernicus Sentinel satellites, but also the network of receiving stations and processing centers through which data are made available.
- The understanding signed today sets out the technical interfaces necessary for ESA to support Spanish entities in establishing a national data center to host all Copernicus Sentinel data disseminated by ESA.
- Spanish organizations will also make processing capabilities and applications available on the Spanish site, to enable users to develop value-added products tailored to the Spanish market.
- The Collaborative Ground Segment is the network of national data centers that European countries are setting up to provide their citizens with specific collections of Copernicus data and processing tools which respond directly to the needs of local public institutions, research organizations and commercial enterprises.
- Jan Wörner said, “We are very happy to welcome Spain to our expanding Collaborative Ground Segment, particularly in the frame of Space 19+. We see that countries that have already signed up to this initiative are certainly reaping the benefits.”
- Spain is the 20th country to join the Copernicus Space Component Collaborative Ground Segment.
- Ahead of next week’s ‘Space19+’ Ministerial Council, the Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission takes us over Seville in southern Spain – the destination for this milestone event.
- On 27–28 November, Ministers from ESA’s Member States along with Associate Member Slovenia and Cooperating State Canada will meet in Seville for the ESA Council at Ministerial Level Space19+ to discuss future space activities for Europe and the budget of Europe’s space agency for the coming three years. Space19+ is an opportunity to direct Europe’s ‘next generation’ ambitions in space, and address the challenges facing not only the European space sector, but also European society as a whole.
Figure 10: Seville, visible towards the top right of this image, is the capital of Andalusia and the fourth largest city in Spain. An inland port, it lies on the Guadalquivir River and while the original course of the river is visible snaking through the city on the right, we can see where water has also been redirected into a straighter course on the left. At over 650 km long, the Guadalquivir is one of the longest rivers in Spain, extending way beyond the frame of this image. Nevertheless, it can be seen winding its course all the way from the top right of the image, just south of the Sierra Norte mountain range, to the Gulf of Cádiz where it empties into the Atlantic Ocean. On route, this major river serves as a source for irrigation – here noticeable in the top right of the image, but mainly to the south of Seville where large green agricultural fields appear in sharp contrast to the surrounding drier brown land. This image, captured on 21 June 2019 with Sentinel-2, is also featured on the Earth from Space video program (image credit: ESA, the image contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2019), processed by ESA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO)
• June 21, 2018: This week marks 20 years since the manifesto was signed that gave rise to Europe’s Copernicus environmental program. With seven Sentinel satellites already in orbit delivering terabytes of data every day, Copernicus is the biggest provider of Earth observation data in the world. 27)
- To mark this 20-year milestone, reflect on the program’s achievements and to look to the future, EU commissioners, service providers, ESA directors and many more gathered in the small Italian town of Baveno on the southwest shore of Lake Maggiore, effectively the birthplace of Copernicus.
- Signed in 1998, the manifesto proposed that an operational environmental monitoring program be created.
- And, just 20 years later, Copernicus is in full swing, providing services that use satellite data to help address today’s challenges such as urbanization, food security, rising sea levels, diminishing polar ice, natural disasters and, of course, climate change.
- A very important principle is that all satellite data offered through Copernicus are completely free of charge and open to anyone in the world.
- ESA’s Director General, Johann-Dietrich Wörner, said, “Copernicus has made remarkable advances over the last 20 years and this is thanks to all the partners involved. This innovative environmental program epitomizes our approach of a united space in Europe or, for that matter, a united Europe in space. It unifies what we are doing by integrating space into our society and into our economy, and forges a more competitive space sector for Europe.”
- While the European Union is at the helm of Copernicus, ESA develops, builds and launches the dedicated Sentinel satellites. It also operates some the missions and ensures the availability of data from third party missions.
- While the European Union is at the helm of Copernicus, ESA develops, builds and launches the dedicated Sentinel satellites. It also operates some the missions and ensures the availability of data from third party missions.
- To date, there are seven Sentinel satellites in orbit: a pair of Sentinel-1 radar satellites, a pair of Sentinel-2 optical satellites, a pair of Sentinel-3 satellites carrying a suite of instruments, and the single-satellite Sentinel-5P mission to monitor air pollution.
- There are already 150,000 users registered with ESA’s data hub, but since the data are available to anyone, the real number, although unknown, is much higher.
- The next three Sentinel missions are currently being built and there are another six mission concepts being assessed.
- These new missions and the development of new markets for data will take Copernicus into the future. And while, the success of the first 20 years has undoubtedly been thanks to the strong partnerships between the EU, ESA and service providers, the program is evolving alongside a fast-changing landscape for Earth observation.
- ESA’s Director of Earth Observation Programs, Josef Aschbacher, commented, “It’s fantastic that ESA has been part of Copernicus since the beginning and we are keen to ensure ESA’s expertise remains a core part of the program. Copernicus truly benefits our citizens, provides jobs and leads to economic growth, and we feel strongly that ESA has a valuable role to play in its future.”
Figure 11: Lake Maggiore and Baveno. The manifesto that gave rise to Europe’s Copernicus program was signed in 1998 in Baveno, which lies on the southwest shore of Lake Maggiore in Italy. This image was captured by the Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission on 8 March 2017 (image credit: ESA, the image contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2017), processed by ESA)
• December 14, 2017: Thanks to the European Union’s Copernicus program, vast quantities of satellite data are freely available to manage the environment and benefit European citizens. While this offers a wealth of opportunities, downloading and storing these data involves some complex logistical challenges – but this is about to change. 28)
- With such a lot of data available, the European Commission is making efforts to make sure that the process of accessing these data and information is easier so that issues associated with downloading and storing can be avoided.
- To this end, the European Commission launched the Copernicus Data and Information Access Services (DIAS).
- Following a tender and evaluation process, ESA, acting on behalf of the European Commission, has now signed DIAS contracts with four industrial consortia. DIAS will give unlimited, free and complete access to Copernicus data and information.
- DIAS provides a scalable computing and storage environment for third parties. Third parties will be empowered to offer advanced value-adding services integrating Copernicus with their own data and tools to the benefit of their own users.
- The contracts, signed by Josef Aschbacher, ESA’s Director of Earth Observation Programs, mean that by the second quarter of 2018, five DIAS, including the one to be developed by EUMETSAT in cooperation with European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts and Mercator Ocean, will be available to users.
- DIAS will not only provide a cloud-based one-stop shop for all Copernicus satellite data and imagery as well as information from the six Copernicus services, but will also give access to sophisticated processing tools and resources.
- Philippe Brunet, Director for Space Policy, Copernicus and Defence at EC DG GROW, said, “This is a key milestone in the Copernicus program. We are kick-starting the development of European data access and cloud processing services. The vision of the European Commission is that the DIAS platforms will make it even easier for users from various industries and backgrounds to create Copernicus-based applications and services that will benefit people in Europe and around the world.”
The four winning consortia are:
1) Led by Serco Europe, the consortium includes OVH, Gael Systems and Sinergise Ltd.
2) Led by Creotech Instruments, consortium includes Cloud Ferro, Sinergise Ltd, Geomatis SAS, Outsourcing Partner Sp. z o.o., Wroclaw Institute of Spatial Information and Artificial Intelligence Sp. z o.o.
3) Led by ATOS Integration, the consortium includes T-SYSTEM International, DLR, eGEOS, EOX, GAF, Sinergise Ltd, Spacemetric, and Thales Alenia Space.
4) Led by Airbus Defence and Space, the consortium includes Orange SA, Airbus Defence and Space, Geo SA, Capgemini Technology Services SAS, CLS and VITO.
- One of the objectives of the EC (European Commission) is to maximize the use of Copernicus data by and for public end-users, which includes national and local authorities and policymakers as well as civil servants in general.
- Based on this objective, a number of actions have been implemented by the Commission such as the launch of the Copernicus Relays and the Copernicus Academy, two networks to serve EU and non-EU citizens, academics, entrepreneurs and businesses and the Copernicus User Forum, a governance structure composed of experts nominated by the Copernicus Participating Countries which advise the Commission regarding the identification of user requirements, the verification of service compliance and the coordination of public sector users.
- The Spanish Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Food and the Environment (MAPAMA), which is one of the representatives of Spain at the Copernicus User Forum, has identified an underutilization of Copernicus data and information within public entities due to the limited knowledge of the benefits that Copernicus can bring to the workflow of Spanish public administration.
- For this reason, the Ministry is implementing a series of Copernicus User activities around the country. Last month, it organized, jointly with the Laboratory for Image Processing of the University of Valencia (one of the Copernicus Relays) a workshop dedicated to demonstrating how Copernicus can contribute to monitoring the ecological status of inland, coastal and transitional water bodies, and how the Directorate General for Water could integrate this information into their monitoring and reporting activities.
- The workshop focused on promoting the use of Copernicus; identifying user requirements and potential users (with and without remote sensing knowledge); and assessing potential gaps between the Copernicus services and products and the needs of the public users.
- Elisa Rivera Mendoza from MAPAMA, and coordinator of the Spanish Copernicus National User Forum explained that "a clear proof that we have still so much to do it is the limited use of Copernicus products and services by the public administrations which are one of the largest potential communities of users. If the benefits and applications of Copernicus are well known, then the demand for such products would really take off. Copernicus uptake activities in Spain are conceived to ensure that the program is better known and therefore widely used."
- So, why and how can public authorities and civil servants integrate Copernicus data into their water management workflow?
- Copernicus-derived information can be complementary to in situ information which public administrations are already handling, and be used for reporting purposes such as the national reporting on the quality of water under the Water Framework and Nitrates Directives.
- Reliable information and variables (e.g. water quality, soil moisture dynamics, evapotranspiration levels, water consumption in irrigated surfaces) have proven to be very useful for public authorities involved in the management of hydric resources. Therefore, imagery from Copernicus Sentinel satellites can contribute to monitoring the natural and available water resources of Spain and serve as an input for the respective river basins and water management plans.
- Information from Copernicus services can also be of great use, for instance information from the Copernicus Land Monitoring Service to monitor use of nitrates which end up polluting rivers, lakes and aquifers; Very High Resolution land cover / land use products in riparian areas; as well as coastal water quality monitoring information from the Marine Environment Monitoring Service, etc.
- The use of Earth Observation data would improve the quality of data used by public administrations. This would have a considerable impact on the management and the decision-making process – as public authorities and civil servants who have more accurate information about natural resources, can take better informed and more efficient decisions, and could simplify reporting obligations vis-à-vis several national and EU directives.
- The Copernicus program can also provide information on flood-prone areas. This could serve public administration to improve methods for delineating these areas, and therefore to better assess and minimize the damages in case of flood events.
- Another takeaway of the session was that public authorities can obtain Copernicus information to monitoring mountain ranges and quantifying the volume of snow accumulated in these areas. They would be able to spot potential risks of avalanches and floods during periods of rapid thawing.
- Antonio Ruiz Verdú, from the Laboratory for Image Processing of the University of Valencia, gave his view on the Spanish User Uptake activities and noted that “there are now good examples in Spain of cooperation between the administration and members of the Copernicus Academy in order to promote opportunities in the Copernicus downstream sector. This cooperation is helping to bridge the so-called Science-Policy gap”. Ruiz Verdú also highlighted that “the University of Valencia is involved in different Copernicus R&D projects with the purpose of transferring this knowledge to end-users of the public administrations”.
- As a final message, Elisa Rivera also referred to the “great role that universities and leading research centers are now playing, as members of the Relays and Academy networks, since they contribute to promote and build capacity among public administrations on the use of Copernicus products and services”.
- MAPAMA is organizing upcoming user uptake activities for public authorities and civil servants involved in a wide range of domains such as: smart cities (workshop on Copernicus for Green Growth and Smart City development -28 November), marine environmental management (in 2018), agriculture (in 2018), amongst others.
• On 28 August, 2017, EUMETSAT’s near-real-time dissemination service went to the next level when EUMETSAT’s CODA (Copernicus Online Data Access) service, became operationally available to users via the new single-sign on option. 38)
- It ensures that CODA users can access both Copernicus and data from EUMETSAT’s Earth observation portal with one username and password.
- In combination with EUMETCast - a flexible multicasting service delivering the unified data streams from Copernicus and EUMETSAT’s own missions, as well as EUMETview - an interactive visualization service especially for satellite imagery, EUMETSAT’s data services provide solutions for a variety of different needs:
a) Sourcing Copernicus Data with CODA: EUMETSAT’s CODA service is a rolling archive featuring a month’s worth of Sentinel-3 data through an uncomplicated web interface as well as a scripting service, which allows users to automate bulk data downloads (within certain parameters).
After an extensive pilot phase, the CODA service is now fully available to users. CODA is particularly relevant for the ocean and remote sensing scientists, but its benefits reach beyond the scientific community. Developers in the public and private sector, be it for products or information services, can use CODA to develop innovative applications.
Hayley Evers King (Plymouth Marine Laboratory) summarizes her experience: “CODA is ideal for our daily business. It allows us to investigate specific areas and locate data for a particular region anywhere on the globe. This is, for example, useful when spotting algae blooms. The handling is particularly easy and follows a streamlined, user-friendly process. CODA allows us to select data without needing much experience. This is immensely helpful.”
b) Data dissemination via EUMETCast: The vast majority of marine data from the Copernicus-3A satellite, operated by EUMETSAT on behalf of the European Union, are now available on EUMETCast. With this milestone, EUMETSAT’s flexible multicasting service now delivers unified data streams to Copernicus users integrating observations from Copernicus and its own missions. This new marine data stream, involving products from Sentinel-3A, Jason-3, Metop and Meteosat creates a broad range of opportunities for the downstream development of applications, services and – ultimately – added value in Europe.
For Hayley Evers King (Plymouth Marine Laboratory) EUMETCast is important because “... it allows us to routinely and quickly access large amounts of data. We use it together with CODA and EUMETview; having these various sources of data access will increase the number of users for Copernicus data.”
• July 13, 2017: Action against Hunger, an international NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) working in the West African Sahel, has been using EO data to enhance the planning of humanitarian responses to drought impacts. Software developed by Action against Hunger uses Copernicus Global Land Service Products to estimate biomass/grassland production and water availability in the Sahel region. The NGO uses the software and Copernicus products to strengthen the drought monitoring capacity in the region. This is helping decision makers -such as the Government of Mali - to operate their own drought detection system, as a component of the national early warning system. To further democratize the information, the next step is to deliver information directly to herders. 39)
- Over the years, rainfall in the West African Sahel has become increasingly volatile, with years of floods preceding extreme droughts. These climatic shocks place millions of people in a precarious and vulnerable situation, which is more acutely felt by livestock herders.
- In countries such as Mali and Niger, the majority of cattle are held in semi-nomadic herds that move according to the seasons in search of greener pasture and water. As the Sahel has a single rainy season of 3-4 months between July and October, herders need to make careful decisions on moving their cattle, ensuring that their animals stay healthy and survive the long dry season. For the communities in the region a poor rainy season can severely affect their way of living. Family herds that took decades to form can be decimated in only a few months. As an example, in 2009, following a drought in Niger, herders in the worst-hit areas lost up to 90% of their livestock.
- Reliable information on biomass and water availability is fundamental. Herders, as well as humanitarian and government actors, need to know which areas are going to be impacted by droughts to plan for early response interventions.
- Since 2005, a humanitarian NGO, Action against Hunger (Action Contre la Faim, ACF), has been working to use remote sensing data to improve humanitarian response to droughts. Through a partnership with the Flemish Institute of Technology (VITO NV, Belgium), ACF has been providing geo-information, derived from the SPOT/VGT and PROBA-V satellite sensors, to other humanitarian actors in order to identify areas prone to drought.
- Over the years, this initiative has grown and several Copernicus Global Land Service products related to vegetation and water - Dry Matter Productivity, Water Bodies, Soil Water Index and Normalized Difference Vegetation Index - are now being used operationally to monitor the West Sahel. Software developed by ACF uses Copernicus data to estimate biomass/grassland production and water availability. ACF also initiated capacity-building activities to ensure awareness of the benefits and use of EO data and increase engagement of local governments in Niger and Mali. As a result, the government of Mali now operates its own drought detection system as part of a national Early Warning System (see map below). The system relies on Copernicus Global Land Service products as inputs. Through this system authorities are supported in planning humanitarian responses to water shortages and possible livestock production deficits.
- In addition, by using these products in various maps, ACF has been able to consistently draw the attention of the humanitarian community to the needs of vulnerable populations, and stress the need for livelihood planning in regions at risk.
Ground Truth Data Collection for the Sentinels on two Expeditions
March 2018: Information from the Sentinel missions is used in a myriad of ways to make lives easier and businesses more efficient. For example, ocean forecasting is important for maritime safety and off-shore operations, and biological productivity helps sectors such as the fishing industry. It is therefore imperative to monitor data quality throughout a satellite’s life – and this means venturing out to make in situ measurements that can be compared with measurements taken from space. 40)
Two recent expeditions that took scientists 26,000 km across the Atlantic Ocean have returned critical information to make sure that the Copernicus Sentinel satellites are delivering accurate data about the state of our oceans.
In 2016 and 2017, a team of scientists did just this and braved the seas for months on voyages that took them all the way from the UK to the South Atlantic to collect reference measurements of chlorophyll, sea temperature and more.
ESA ocean scientist Craig Donlon explained, “We rely on these measurements, which are fully traceable, independent and collected according to strict protocols. They are an essential part of making sure that the satellite data can be used with confidence for practical applications and scientific research.”
Gavin Tilstone from the Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML) said, “Each expedition took around seven weeks. En route to South Georgia and the Falkland Islands we took around a million measurements each time, including readings of ocean color, surface temperature and wave motion. We voyaged through many different ocean regimes so that these measurements were as varied as possible, from productive coastal regions to desert-like gyres in the center of the ocean that are rarely accessed by research ships.”
Importantly, where possible, measurements were taken at the same time as the Sentinels passed overhead. “It was also important to compare measurements taken by different shipborne instruments, which is all part of making sure they are of the highest quality and rigorously calibrated before they are used to check the satellite data,” added Gavin Tilstone.
Figure 12: The RSS Discovery carried scientists from the UK to South Georgia to make in situ measurements of the ocean as part of the campaign to validate the Copernicus Sentinel satellites (image credit: PML)
Legend to Figure 12: South Georgia is a remote island (167 km long) in the southern Atlantic Ocean that is part of the British Overseas territory of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. South Georgia is located at the same southern latitudes as the Falkland Islands, but further east at a distance of 1550 km.
Figure 13: Mat of phytoplankton. Phytoplankton bloom formed of a dense mat of diatoms in the Southern Ocean. This was sampled by team of scientists on voyage between the UK and South Georgia to validate ocean data from the Copernicus Sentinels (Image credit: University of Hawaii–E. Goetze/Naturalis Biodiversity Center Leiden–K. Peijnenburg, D. Wall-Palmer & L. Mekkes)
Figure 14: Taking fiducial reference measurements in the Atlantic Ocean. These are fully traceable, independent measurements collected in situ according to strict protocols. They are used to ensure confidence in data from the Copernicus Sentinels (image credit: PML)
Some of the initial results suggest that the measurements of chlorophyll by Sentinel-3A’s ocean and land color instrument can be improved slightly, which is now being addressed in the data processing chain.
Craig Donlon commented, “This is exactly why these campaigns are vital. They build confidence in our missions and data products, and highlight issues that can be easily addressed by our expert teams. Regular-repeat campaigns are a core part of our satellite missions because they provide the evidence of mission quality for our users.”
The Copernicus Sentinel-1, Sentinel-2 and Sentinel-3 satellites return different types of data about the oceans. For example, Sentinel-1 can be used to look at waves and oil spills, Sentinel-2 and Sentinel-3 both offer information about phytoplankton, which form the basis of the marine food chain and are important in the balance of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Sentinel-3 is also used to map SST (Sea Surface Temperature), which is needed for forecasting. In addition, information on both phytoplankton and temperature is important for understanding how our oceans are changing.
Figure 15: Image of southwest England and the English Channel from Sentinel-1. The effects of wind along the Devon and Dorset shorelines are particularly striking. Where the sea is flat it appears black and this is down to the sheltering effects of the land or the funnelling effect of small valleys along the coastline. The gusty nature of the wind is apparent as small-scale structures to the southwest of Devon. Sentinel-1’s SAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar) can be considered a 'super-scatterometer', providing information on the wind speed and structure at a higher resolution than traditional satellite scatterometers used for observing wind at the sea surface (image credit: ESA, the image contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2016), processed by Ifremer).
Earth observation: CSC (Copernicus Space Component)
In October 2009, the EC issued a Communication on ‘GMES: Challenges and Next Steps for the Space Component’ in which the respective roles of the European Union (EU), the EC and ESA within GMES in general, and within the GSC in particular, are addressed.
New terminology and concepts have been introduced. The EC leadership of the overall GMES program has been reiterated, declaring the intention to be the GMES Program Manager and to organize itself accordingly. ESA has been reconfirmed as the Coordinator of the GMES Space Component (‘GSC Coordinator’) while the EEA (European Environment Agency) is proposed to coordinate the In situ Component.
Figure 16: Copernicus Space Component: the dedicated Sentinels (image credit: ESA, Ref. 47)
GMES serves two main European policy requirements: 41)
5) Independent access to geospatial information for policy- and decision-makers to advance European and national agendas related to environment and security policies.
6) Federation of European contributions to the international GEOSS (Global Earth Observation System of Systems) program. GMES has been declared by European governments to be the main framework for Europe's contribution to GEOSS. However, this will not include the totality of GMES, but those elements deemed appropriate to be shared at the international level. GMES shall not only contribute to GEOSS, but shall also act as a recipient of data and information from external sources for the benefit of European users.
The GMES program, which is aiming for full operational provision of satellite data for GMES services, involves the use of existing and planned national space capabilities as well as the development of new infrastructure. The GMES Space Component program is intended to meet the requirements of the three pilot services identified by the EC for early implementation (land monitoring, ocean monitoring and emergency management) and other services to be deployed in the 2008-2020 period.
The GSC (GMES Space Component) program is built around five concepts of space missions or “Sentinels”, plus access to existing and complementary missions from ESA Member States, EUMETSAT, Canada and third parties. Of the latter category the following missions are considered candidates for GMES operational service contributions - to get the program started:
- SPOT-5 of CNES, France (operating mission with a launch May 4, 2002)
- TerraSAR-X of DLR/EADS Astrium, Germany, with a launch on June 15, 2007
- COSMO-SkyMed of ASI, Italy (3 spacecraft with launches on June 8, 2007, Dec. 9, 2007, Oct. 25, 2008, and in late 2009)
- RADARSAT-2 of CSA/MDA, Canada, with a launch on Dec. 14, 2007
- Pleiades of CNES (2 spacecraft with launches in 2010 and thereafter)
- Jason-2 of EUMETSAT/CNES/NOAA/NASA with a launch on June 20, 2008
- MSG (Meteosat Second Generation) spacecraft of EUMETSAT (3 satellites with launches in 2002, 2005, and 2009)
- MetOp of EUMETSAT (3 satellites with a first launch on Oct. 19, 2006)
- DMC (Disaster Monitoring Constellation) of SSTL, UK [with 5 optical imaging satellites in orbit as of fall 2005: AlSAT-1, BILSAT-1, NigeriaSat-1, UK-DMC, and Beijing-1 (DMC+4)]
- RapidEye of RapidEye AG, Germany (5 optical imaging satellites with a launch on Aug. 29, 2008)
- EnMAP (Environmental Mapping and Analysis Program), a hyperspectral mission of DLR with a planned launch in 2017.
The ESA Sentinels constitute the first series of operational satellites responding to the Earth Observation needs of the EU-ESA GMES program. The GMES space component relies on existing and planned space assets as well as on new complementary developments by ESA. 44) 45)
The following members of the Sentinel family have been identified as core elements of the GSC (GMES Space Component):
• Sentinel-1 is a C-band interferometric SAR mission, consisting of a pair of satellites - to provide continuity to data so far provided by ERS-2, Envisat, and RADARSAT missions. The Sentinel-1 spacecraft cover applications such as observing sea ice zones and the arctic environment, surveillance of marine environment, monitoring land surface motion risks, and mapping in support of humanitarian aid in crisis situations.
Sentinel-1 will be flown in a dawn-dusk sun-synchronous orbit at an altitude of ~700 km with an exact repeat orbit of 12 days in support of multi-pass interferometry. With a SAR swath of ~250 km and a ground resolution of 5 m x 20 m, a 12 day quasi-global coverage can be obtained. The spacecraft design life is 7 years.
The spacecraft design is characterized by a single SAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar) instrument with selectable dual polarization, a deployable solar array, a large size on-board science data storage (1.4 TB at EOL), a very high X-band downlink rate 520 Mbit/s), and stringent requirements on attitude accuracy and data-take timing. In addition, the spacecraft will embark an OCP (Optical Communication Payload) unit allowing downlink of recorded data via a GEO terminal such as the EDRS (European Data Relay Satellite) of ESA. The launch of the first Sentinel-1 spacecraft is planned for 2013.
• Sentinel-2 is a multispectral optical imaging mission for global land observation (data on vegetation, soil and water cover for land, inland waterways and coastal areas, and also provide atmospheric absorption and distortion data corrections) at high resolution to provide enhanced continuity of data so far provided by SPOT-5 and Landsat-7.
The payload reference concept is based on a pushbroom multispectral imager (MSI) featuring a swath of 285 km with the intermediate spectral band set of 9 bands in VNIR, 3 SWIR bands, (including a 2.2 µm channel), and a PAN channel (”supermode” at 7 m). The revisit requirements for Sentinel-2 are a geometric revisit of better than or equal to 7 days over all landmasses and inland waters. The coverage requirements call for imagery of size ~149 million km2 in 3-7 days. These coverage requirements are driven by the need for global land mass change detection over the time scale of days to weeks. The design life required is > 5 years (7 years) of operations.
The Sentinel-2 spacecraft will feature an OCP unit allowing downlink of recorded data via a GEO terminal. The first launch of Sentinel-2 is planned for 2013 (800 km orbit).
• Sentinel-3 is an operational oceanography mission requiring the operation of 2 concurrent spacecraft. The main objective of Sentinel-3 mission is the provision of ocean observation data in routine, long term and continuous fashion with a consistent quality and a very high level of availability. In addition, the mission will be designed to generate land optical observation products, ice topography, vegetation and land hydrology products. The main mission objectives comprise: 46)
1) Operational Oceanography, i.e. the delivery of information needed to constrain and drive global and local ocean assimilation models actually, coupled ocean/ atmosphere assimilation models. For this, Sentinel-3 will deliver:
- Ocean color data
- Sea surface temperature data
- Sea surface topography data, including in particular an along-track SAR capability for addressing coastal zones sea surface topography and sea ice topography.
2) Global land applications, i.e. the delivery of information needed to derive global land products and services. These are:
- Land surface color
- Land surface temperature
- Land ice topography and inland water surface height data.
Sentinel-3 is an Earth observation mission including a medium-sized platform, large swath/medium spatial resolution optical instruments and a radar altimeter The final constellation of two satellites provides a worst case 2 day revisit time. The spacecraft carries a set of 4 main payloads:
- OCLI (Ocean and Land Color Instrument). OCLI is based on heritage from Envisat's MERIS (Medium Resolution Imaging Spectrometer) instrument but with improved wavelength bands (21 compared to 15 on MERIS) and sun-glint effects reduction.
- SLSTR (Sea and Land Surface Temperature Instrument). The SLSTR uses a dual viewing technique and operates across nine wavelength bands (plus 2 additional fire channels) supporting atmospheric correction. The spectral range of these channels is: 0.55, 0.66, 0.86, 1.37, 1.61, 2.25, 3.74, 10.95 and 12 µm plus the two fire channels with 3.74 and 10.95 µm. It provides a swath width of 750 km in dual and 1420 km in single view. The SLSTR has a spatial resolution in the visible bands of 500 m.
- SRAL (SAR Radar Altimeter), a dual-band (C+Ku) altimeter operating in conventional radar-altimeter mode as on Poseidon-3 (Jason-2), and in advanced SAR mode (burst mode) over sea ice and coastal regions (data so far provided by RA-2 on Envisat). SRAL is a mature concept supported by the strong heritage from Poseidon-3 and the CryoSat-2 SIRAL instrument techniques. It will provide the required ocean and sea-ice thickness measurements, as well as inland-waters and coastal measurements.
These instruments are complemented by a GNSS receiver, a DORIS terminal, and LRR (Laser Retroreflector).
The spacecraft design is characterized by a deployable solar array, stringent requirements on attitude accuracy, and the necessity to perform near-real time POD (Precise Orbit Determination) services to support data processing. The first launch of Sentinel-3 is planned for 2013.
• Sentinel-4 and -5, these are two families of atmospheric chemistry monitoring missions, one instrument (Sentinel-4) on geostationary orbit (GEO) and one instrument (Sentinel-5) on low Earth orbit (LEO).
The actual implementation of the missions will be according to a flexible architecture which may lead to grouping some of them on single platforms.
- The Sentinel-4 payload (an Ultraviolet-Visible-Near- Infrared Spectrometer) will be embarked on the two MTG-S (Meteosat Third Generation–Sounder) satellites in geostationary orbit (planned to launch in 2020 and 2027). In addition, TIR (Thermal Infrared) sounder data on the same platform, and a cloud imager on the MTG-Imager platform will be exploited by the Sentinel-4 services.
- The Sentinel-5 payload will be carried on the MetOp Second Generation spacecraft (planned to launch starting in 2020) in a sun-synchronous low Earth orbit (at about 800 km mean altitude). The Sentinel-5 mission will consist of an UV-VIS-NIR and Shortwave Infrared spectrometer which will also house a TIR sounder and imager.
- Sentinel-5P (Precursor). To avoid gaps between Envisat (SCIAMACHY instrument data in particular) and Sentinel-5, and to ensure continuity of atmospheric services, a Sentinel-5P mission, similar to Sentinel-5 but with no TIR sounder and imager, will be launched in 2015. Services proposed will cover air quality, climate change and stratospheric ozone and solar radiation.
Figure 18: GMES priorities and Sentinel notational definitions (image credit: ESA)
Figure 19: GMES Space Component Long term scenario (launch dates of Sentinels are indicative), image credit: ESA 47)
GMES-1 requirements and definition phase (2005/7)
The GMES-1 mission (Sentinel-1) is planned for a launch in the time frame 2012+. The objectives are to address the observational needs of Sentinel-1 and -3. The spacecraft is seen as the follow-on mission to Envisat. GMES-1 will include a C-band SAR instrument to continue the interferometric and ocean/ice/land measurements of Envisat and ERS-2, and to provide ocean color observations. Other capabilities are in the planning stage. 48) 49)
The mission objectives aim at customer satisfaction taking into account funding sources and the interest of the different customer categories including:
- Sponsors: Technology Research & Development Agencies, Departments of Industry
- Earth Observation Investigators: Studying methods and developing applications
- `End users': Earth scientists, institutional users, service providers, (other) companies, (other) professional & private users, etc.
• Earth observation research: a) to study the radar signature of the Earth, and b) to establish application potential for Earth science support as well as for operational services
• Need of best possible sensitivity, temporal & spatial resolution, image quality
• Request multi-parameter space: different wavelengths, (full) polarimetry, interferometry
• The end users represent an immense but also a very diverse community.
Programmatic priorities and GMES pilot services:
The origin of the mission requirements have their roots in the following programmatic priorities and GMES pilot services aiming at:
- Monitoring the European marine environment. This means for instance daily surveillance of marine transport corridors (example: the English Channel, the Strait of Gibraltar, etc.) with information delivery within one hour of observation.
- Monitoring and assessing land surface-motion risks. Observation cycles of subsidence measurements over all major urban areas and surveillance of transport infrastructure (e.g. gas pipelines) on a two-week basis.
- Open ocean surveillance. Of particular interest are the Arctic and Antarctic environment with their sea-ice regions. Daily monitoring of ice-infested areas along the major transport routes. Open ocean monitoring implies the provision of wind and wave products similar to those of ASAR.
- Forest monitoring. This involves the generation of annual global maps for climate change detection services as well as support of sustainable management and nature protection.
- Water management and soil protection. This involves such services as monthly global mapping of the environmental state to support the EU's thematic strategy on soil protection. Currently, surface soil moisture is being derived from ASAR data of Envisat for southern Germany.
- Forest fire and land management. Provision of monthly global coverage for the mapping of burnt regions and for flood risk assessment. Furthermore, provision of fast global on-demand access services for real-time awareness services for floods.
- Food security and crop monitoring. An example is rice mapping in China - currently, a pilot test service, referred to as Dragon Project, for the Hinze region is using single-date HH/VV Envisat data of the ASAR (Advanced SAR) instrument.
- Global mapping for the humanitarian community. This service requires fast global access on demand.
- Long-term continuity: At least 15 years of service
- Performance and data quality: ERS/Envisat
- Operations: Systematic with on-demand option
- Processing and archiving: All products to level-1
- Distribution: From archive in near real-time
- Coverage & revisit: Global monthly, fast global access on demand, regional bi-weekly, regional daily (12 hourly desirable)
- Timeliness: 3 hours (1 hour desirable for special cases)
- Center frequency of SAR instrument: C-band at 5.405 GHz
- Interferometry: yes, service dependent
- Spatial and radiometric resolution: ERS/Envisat baseline
- Swath width: Minimum 200-300 km, larger desirable, 20 x 20 km for wave mode
- Polarization: VV (wind, waves and oil spills), HV or VH (ship detection), VV or HH, VV and HH (desirable), VV and VH or HH and HV, full polarimetry (best for classification)
A two-satellite constellation with four nominal operational modes designed for inter-operability with other systems for full compliance with user requirements.
- Stripmap Mode (SM):
- Interferometric wide-swath mode (IW):
- Extra-wide swath mode (EW):
- Wave mode (WV):
- Orbit: Sun-synchronous near circular orbit with an altitude of about 700 km
- Mean local solar time at 18 hours on ascending node (dawn-dusk orbit)
- Repeat cycle: 12 days
- Cycle length: 175 orbits
- Swath width: 80 km (SM), 240 km (IW), 400 km (EW), 20 km x 20 km (WV)
- Polarization: VV+VH or HH+HV (all modes)
- Spatial resolution (ground range x azimuth): 4 m x 5 m, single look (SM); 5 m x 20 m single look (IW); 25 m x 80 m three looks (EW); 20 m x 5 m single look (WV)
- Noise equivalent sigma zero: -25 dB
- Radiometric stability: 0.5 dB
- Radiometric accuracy: 1.0 dB
Sentinels operations concept:
The following list summarizes the main characteristics of the Sentinel missions (S1, S2, and S3) which determine the operations concept: 50)
• Each Sentinel spacecraft is designed such that its on-board resources allow to store the complete instrument schedule covering the default mission plan duration, i.e. 4 days, 14 days and 27 days respectively for each Sentinel mission family
• In terms of on-board autonomy, each satellite can operate nominally for at least 72 hours without any ground intervention, even in the case of a single on-board failure
• Visibility of the spacecraft from the primary TT&C station will be on average 10 minutes every revolution except for up to four consecutive blind orbits (every 24 hours) during which the ground track does not cross the Kiruna visibility region
• Very stringent QoS (Quality of Service) requirements ensuring that data products are accurate, complete and provided on time. In particular, all Sentinels feature Near-Real time delivery of data within 3 hours from sensing.
An innovative Sentinels operational concept has been defined based on the use of a novel mechanism to schedule the telecommand execution using the spacecraft orbit position, as provided by the on-board GNSS receiver. This allows to drastically reduce the number of ground station passes required to support the routine mission and to manage the monitoring and control of the 3 systems under a single spacecraft controller position.
Sentinel downlinks: Sentinel-1,-2, and -3 produce approximately 4 TByte of data per day. The downlink of that data to the ground represents one of the major challenges of the program. Each satellite requires between 6 (Sentinel-3) and 16-18 (Sentinel-1, -2) minutes of downlink time per orbit on average, with a modulation and coding scheme which can be accommodated within the 300 MHz X-band bandwidth available. A new modulation scheme has been designed and implemented and all Sentinels make use of the same payload data transmission subsystem, the X-band TXA (Transmission Assembly). In addition, Sentinel-1 and -2 are being equipped with an additional downlink subsystem, an OCP (Optical Communications Payload), including a Laser Communication Terminal (LCT) to transmit instrument data a geostationary data relay system, the EDRS (European Data Relay System) to the ground.
There are two downlink channels available. Each channel has an effective downlink rate of 260 Mbit/s. The Sentinels provide the same on-board interface from the mass memory to the input to the TXA and, for Sentinel-1 and -2, to the input of the LCT. It is possible to downlink data from memory, with or without deletion after downlink; to downlink data from memory while new data is stored in memory; and to provide quasi-real time downlink of data, with data acquired and stored in the mass memory and immediately downlinked.
Although the mass memory management of the different Sentinels is designed in response to the specific requirements of each mission, all Sentinels support a downlink planning allowing the download of different data with different priorities, e.g. Near Real Time (NRT) data downlink prior to other data. And for Sentinel-1 and -2 the downlink planning allows to route the data to either the X-band downlink or the optical downlink.
The Sentinels FOS (Flight Operations Segment) is being designed making extensive re-use of elements developed in the context of previous Earth Observation ground segments. A single Sentinel MCS (Mission Control System) will allow monitoring and control of all spacecraft, while commonalities across unit models will be applied for the Sentinel spacecraft simulators development.
Once operational, GMES will be unique in the world. GMES will provide what is done successfully today in meteorology, namely to combine satellite and in situ observations with forecast models, to obtain information services needed by institutions and individual citizens alike. GMES will extend this concept to domains such as agricultural monitoring and food supply forecasting, fisheries, ship-routeing, urban planning, climate change studies, emergency response, humanitarian aid, external EU actions, border surveillance or maritime security, to name just a few.
Figure 20: High-level components and competences allocation (Ref. 47)
GSE (GMES Services Element)
In 2001 the first ESA program dedicated to GMES, called the “Earthwatch GMES Service Element” (GSE), was approved by the ESA Ministerial Council. As a consequence, in February 2003, 10 GSE thematic projects have been launched after a competitive tender by ESA/ESRIN, each of them aiming to deliver pre-operational information for monitoring and management of environment and security to end users in order to fulfil European policies. These GSE services will make best use of existing EO (Earth Observation) systems and will also help to define and establish the longer-term needs for future operational EO systems. 51)
The GMES Services are categorized into three Earth system domains (Atmosphere, Marine and Land) and three crosscutting domains (Emergency Management, Security and Climate). Once fully operational, they will provide standardized and validated multi-purpose information products for a broad range of EU policy-relevant application areas, many of which are implemented at national or regional level. The development of the GMES Services and their transition to pre-operational status has been funded primarily within the GMES Service Element of the European Space Agency and the 6th and 7th Framework Programs of the European Commission, with EU Member State funding having also supported development and customization (Ref. 44).
The information products of the six Service domains are at various stages of operational maturity (in 2011). Several are now operational and part of the EC-funded GIO (GMES Initial Operations) phase (2011-2013). Others are undergoing final prototyping and operationalization with an aim to be funded in the anticipated GMES operations phase (2014+).
Brief descriptions of the GMES Service domains are provided below along with an indication of maturity level.
• GMES Atmosphere Monitoring Service: aims to provide data records, nowcasts and forecasts of global atmospheric chemistry and constituents essential for monitoring climate, air quality, solar and UV radiation. Information products from this service are completing operationalization activities and should be included in the GMES operations phase.
• GMES Marine Monitoring Service: aims to provide a suite of information products for global oceans and European sea basins targeting maritime safety, environment and safety based on forecasting models and measurements of variables such as sea level, ocean color, sea surface temperature, salinity, sea state and wind, oil pollution, and sea ice. Information products from this service are completing operationalization activities and should be included in the GMES operations phase.
• GMES Land Monitoring Service: provides crossborder, harmonized geo-information at global to local scales addressing land-cover/land-use, biophysical parameters and change monitoring to support spatial planning and monitoring of freshwater, crops, forests and land carbon. European land-cover/land-use products are entering the GIO phase while global land monitoring products are completing operationalization activities and should be included in the GMES operations phase.
- GIO land operational in March 2013: After eight years of GMES research projects in the field of land monitoring and the starting of the GMES/Copernicus Initial Operations (GIO) in 2011, the Copernicus Land Monitoring Service has become operational. 52)
• GMES Emergency Management Service (EMS): targets the whole emergency cycle for humanitarian crises, natural and man-made emergencies by delivering risk assessment maps and, for emergency situations, both pre-disaster reference products and timely post-disaster assessment maps. This Service is entering the GIO phase with some of the risk-mapping related activities completing operationalization activities.
- The Copernicus EMS-Mapping has been fully operational since the 1st of April 2012, providing all actors involved in the management of natural disasters, man-made emergency situations and humanitarian crises with timely and accurate geo-spatial information derived from satellite remote sensing and complemented by available in situ or open data sources. The service can be activated for many types of disasters, including floods, forest fires, landslides, severe storms, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, humanitarian crises, tsunamis and technological disasters. 53)
• GMES Security Service: aims to support European Union policies related to EU border and maritime surveillance as well as EU External Action support. Information products from this service are completing operationalization activities and are expected to be included in the GMES operations phase.
• GMES Climate Service: aims to support the European Union and Member States in formulating their strategies and policies to mitigate and adapt to climate change. The initial set of information products to come from this Service is still being consolidated in collaboration with European Institutional users, as well as current providers of complementary information products.
It is anticipated that the free availability of products from the GMES Services, coupled with the full and open availability of data from the GMES-dedicated Sentinel satellite missions, will give rise to a so-called GMES downstream sector. The services developed in the downstream sector will be those which fill niches not covered specifically enough by the GMES services. These might include regional or local information at resolutions higher than provided by the GMES Services, such as streetscale air quality forecasts, or information of interest to narrow sectors of users such as the off-shore wind industry. It is expected that downstream services become self-sustaining by securing funding directly from their users or through non-GMES institutional funding (Ref. 44).
Figure 21: High-level view of the GMES architecture (image credit: EC, ESA)
Figure 22: Overview of GMES system architecture (image credit: ESA)
GSCDA (GMES Space Component Data Access)
The GMES Space Component (GSC) includes the Sentinels satellites and the coordinated access to ESA and European EO missions.
In 2007, ESA and the EC (European Commission) signed an agreement to allow ESA to ensure the coordinated and timely supply of satellite-based Earth Observation data for the preoperational phase of GMES from 2008 to 2010.
ESA is managing the GSCDA project in the frame of the FP7 space program as part of the European Space Policy focusing on coordinating the access to space-based observation data to support GMES services.
ESA targets the introduction of the following capabilities to achieve a coordinated access to data from current and future missions. These efforts are supported in parallel through CEOS (Committee on Earth Observation Satellites) and GEOSS (Global Earth Observation System of Systems).
• HMA (Heterogeneous Mission Access). GMES data access implies also a coherent data access to ~40 different EO missions (inside and outside of ESA). Aside from the current and future ESA missions (Envisat, GOCE, SMOS, CryoSat-2, MSG-3, Swarm, ADM/Aeolus, GMES Sentinels, etc.), the European space agencies are also cooperating with their EO missions to make HMA become possible for a global EO community. 54)
Full members of the HMA Architecture Working Group are: CSA, CNES, DLR, ESA, EUMETSAT, and ASI. 55)
• LTDP (Long Term Data Preservation). 58)
Figure 23: Overview of the GSC and HMA (image credit: ESA)
Figure 24: GMES pre-operational status in 2012 (image credit: ESA) 59)
Figure 25: Sentinels data production highlights (image credit: ESA)
Figure 26: Updated GSA and HMA illustration of the ground segment architecture in 2012 (image credit: ESA, Ref. 59)
Figure 27: Overview of GMES components and responsibilities (image credit: ESA,Ref. 59)
Figure 28: GMES core and collaborative ground segment (image credit: ESA)
Figure 29: Core ground segment functions (image credit: ESA)
Figure 30: GMES core ground station network (image credit: ESA)
Figure 31: Data Core NRT and Offline Processing Centers (image credit: ESA, Ref. 59)
Copernicus/GMES data policy:
“Full and open access to Sentinel data for all users.”
As part of the ESA-led GMES Space Component (GSC), which guarantees access to a variety of EO data, ESA and the EC worked together to define the principles and implementation scheme of the Sentinel Data Policy. The goal is to strife for maximum availability of data & corresponding access services in support of increasing demand of EO data in the context of climate change initiatives and for the implementation of environmental policies, also resulting in humanitarian benefits.
1) In principle, anybody can access acquired Sentinel data; in particular, no difference is made between public, commercial and scientific use and in between European or non-European users (registration is required).
2) The licenses for the Sentinel data are free of charge.
3) The Sentinel data (as far as generated out of the Core Ground segment) will be made available to the users via a "generic" online access mode, free of charge. "Generic" online access is subject to a user registration process and to the acceptation of generic terms and conditions.
4) Additional access modes and the delivery of additional products will be tailored to specific user needs, and therefore subject to tailored conditions.
5) In the event security restrictions apply to specific Sentinel data affecting data availability or timeliness, specific operational procedures will be activated.
The Sentinel Data Policy is one element of the overall GMES Data and Information Policy. The Sentinel Data Policy is applicable to data derived from Sentinel missions (1-5, S-5 precursor) and the respective core ground segment.
ESA/EC joint principles for the Sentinel Data Policy:
- Approved by ESA member states at PB-EO in September 2009
- To be approved by EC as part of Regulation of the European Parliament and the Council at the end of 2010.
Sentinel HLOP (High Level Operations Plan): 67)
• ESA will generate a Sentinel HLOP, which will define the priorities in data acquisition/provision applicable to all Sentinel missions during the operations of the GSC.
• HLOP will prioritize user access in order to mitigate impact of technical or financial constraints based on the use of data and the rules contained in the GMES declaration
• Priorities are applied only in case of technical or financial constraints or incompatibility of requirements exceeding the satellite or ground segment capacity. ESA’s approach is to minimize the cases for which a priority scheme is needed, through the maximization of systematic acquisition, of systematic processing and of systematic data availability.
• Legal framework of the EU-ESA cooperation for Copernicus (Ref. 47):
1) The Regulation, published in April 2014, establishes the operational EU Copernicus programme, the funds (budget 2014-2020: EUR 4.3 billion) allocated to each Component and the responsibilities of all parties involved. It forms the legal basis for the establishment of the EU-ESA Copernicus Agreement.
2) The EU-ESA Agreement, signed in October 2014, defines the terms and conditions relating to the implementation of the Copernicus Space Component by ESA, e.g.:
- Technical tasks entrusted to ESA within the allocated budget
- Contracting Authority and procurement rules
- Reporting to the Commission
- Assets ownership transfer.
The EC delegated regulation on Data and Information Policy to ESA. It entered into force in December 2013 after several months of negotiation. This regulation is in line and reinforces the Sentinel Data Policy approved by ESA MSs in September 2013, which stipulates:
• Open access to Sentinel data by anybody and for any use
• Free of charge data licenses
• Restrictions possible due to technical limitations or security constraints.
Copernicus Contributing Missions data access will follow their owners data policies.
Figure 32: Copernicus Space Component: the Ground Segment (Ref. 47)
The technical implementation of the GSC (GMES Space Component) is entrusted to ESA. The objective of the GSC program is to fulfil the space-based observation requirements in response to European policy priorities. It comprises two types of satellite missions; the dedicated GMES missions (Sentinels), developed by ESA specifically to meet the Earth Observation needs of GMES services, and the GCMs (GMES Contributing Missions), a number of existing and planned Earth observation satellites from European, national or commercial organizations, which were developed for other purposes but still providing valuable data for GMES. 68)
Hence the GCMs are contributors of the GSC, which can be seen as a System of Systems. The conditions under which their data are made accessible to GMES (e.g. ordering mechanisms, processing level, delivery timeliness, data licensing, etc) are contractually stipulated with the mission owners on an individual basis.
The proposed technical solution for the GMES-S dual data access system is conceived to deliver EO information for security applications to a wide range of European, National, and Regional organizations across the EU. Security products are increasingly demanding in terms of resolution -better than 1m-, responsiveness -better than several hours from request to delivery-, and frequency. The most demanding needs originate in joint operations for crisis response, which require the fastest responsiveness. 69)
ESA's proposed GMES-S GCS concept attempts to focus on the issue of filling in the gaps found in the European ground segment infrastructure.
The first performance driver is very high responsiveness (NRT), combined with very high spatial resolution. This is a must for fast detection and for monitoring changing targets during crisis situations. The second key performance driver is high image quality with moderately fast reaction, required for optimal characterization of already detected and monitored targets. Hence, the operations are divided into:
• Interactive operations which require a specific user observation request or a specific number of repeated observations. The key quality parameter will be total system responsiveness from data request to product or service delivery. The purpose of interactive operations may be detection, monitoring or characterization.
• Systematic operations which require a long term user request for routine and repetitive observations of a given large areas permanently at risk. The key quality parameter will be latency from image acquisition to product or service delivery.
ESA’s reference architecture for GMES-S GCS is depicted in Figure 33, linking the following high-level concepts:
- The “S of GMES” System, that gathers elements of the space and ground segments that fall under the exclusive control of a single GMES authority. Elements modelling the space segment are Sentinel 1 and 2, while ground segment elements modelling the downlink chain are: downlink ground stations, Sentinel payload processing centers, security thematic value adding, and data fusion centers, telemetry tracking and command ground stations, FOS (Flight Operations Segment), and the GMES security tasking coordination center.
- The “S of GMES" System of Systems that includes existing and committed European ground or space components with special relevance to meet security needs, not specifically designed for GMES. Elements modelling the space segment are ESA data relay satellites and European security satellites. The ground segment elements modelling the downlink chain are: ground stations, payload processing centers, value adding and data fusion centers, human intelligence, in-situ data, and general knowledge, FOS, European security mission tasking centers and final users.
National and pan-European institutions handle the listed components under various governance models. Cooperative efforts to GMES guarantee data supply and availability.
There are external contributing missions to GMES-S, namely spatial high resolution commercial systems: Canadian SAR missions, EU military missions, GPS and EUMETSAT. Likewise, Norwegian and Israeli ground stations take part in the system for telecommand uplink or data downlink from Arctic, Antarctic and Israeli facilities.
CTDA (Coordinated Tasking and Data Access): The CTDA constitutes the heart and the differential element of the proposed solution for GMES-Security. Requests to be addressed demand a highly interactive, operating in fast response mode. In addition, the system must handle simultaneously requests of multiple crisis scenarios. At the same time, the GMES-S space component capabilities an cooperating missions must efficiently be combined, articulating all assets in a system of systems.
The goal of the CTDA mission is : (i) to respond to the information request, (ii) to task assets and ensure that requested products are planned, and (iii) to provide the location of archived data corresponding to the user requests. Figure 34 shows the CTDA interaction with conforming elements:
• GMES Security Coordination Center hosts the CTDA component which processes requests converting them to tasking/ planning request to elements within the system of systems.
• Mission Planning, uptakes CTDA requests into its planning cycle accounting for applicable data, rules, constraints, allocated data downlink windows (ground stations/European Data Relay Satellites –EDRS-), and allocated uplink windows.
• The EDRS is managed through a dedicated segment and provides its uplink and downlink availability to GMES-S (for data relay to/from the EO satellites). This availability is a main input to the GMES-S mission planning cycles.
• The European Mission Tasking Center receives observation requests and incorporates them into its tasking/planning cycle. Provides feedback in terms of approval or rejection of the observation request.
• External systems or non-European systems that provide a tasking/planning interface according to a reference SLA (Service Level Agreement).
The CTDA counts with a central management point for the tasking and cataloguing of information, to ensure consistency of the overall tasking/planning, to provide feedback to the user and to ensure availability of EO products to end users.
The external systems information hosted at CTDA are the SLA, the catalogue and updated tasking/planning information. CTDA copes with the fact that only part of the considered services may be available from target cooperating missions. The information flows from CTDA to GMES and any external systems are found in Figure 35.
The proposed CTDA approach is basically trying to establish a central catalogue built up from the mirroring of all available external catalogues. For users accessing the archived data, the CTDA acts like a master catalogue. Although user requests for catalogue information and archive data can be secured through standard GMES-S security layers, once end users obtain the data location coordinates, specific data access mechanisms associated to the external archive being accessed are activated.
Copernicus – Dawn of a new era
The start of operations of Copernicus, Europe's Earth Observation and Monitoring Program, marks the beginning of a new era. First, because we have moved from GMES to Copernicus, secondly because we have moved from a research project to an operational program and thirdly because we have moved from a budget of €1.3 Bn to one of €4.3 Bn. In other words: the research projects, which were limited in scope and in time, have been replaced by a multi-annual program based on a proper program regulation that ensures the long-term availability of Earth observation data from Copernicus up to and including the year 2021. It will thus create the conditions which are needed in order for small and medium-sized enterprises to invest in downstream applications, which they offer to their clients, thus creating jobs and growthBy making its data, analyses, forecasts and maps freely available, Copernicus contributes towards the development of new innovative applications and services, tailored to the needs of specific groups of users, which touch on a variety of economic and cultural activities. 70)
Copernicus will serve society in many ways including timely environmental monitoring, managing disasters as well as creating a thriving downstream sector generating significant economic benefits. The implementation of its fully operational phase will encompass the launch of six families of dedicated, EU-owned earth observation satellites and instruments - the so-called Sentinels – and the ramp-up of the 6 Copernicus Services in the fields of atmosphere-, marine- and land-monitoring, climate change, emergency and security.
The first of the dedicated Sentinel satellites is in orbit since 2014, with more satellites to be launched in the months and years to come. The first operational Copernicus services are already available. The Emergency Management and Land Monitoring services are operational since April 2012, and are joined now by the Marine Environment and Atmosphere Monitoring services. The other two services are continuously building up and should become operational by end 2015 or early 2016.
Copernicus contributes to the excellence of the European industry in space – a highly strategic sector with strong growth potential, which will provide the jobs of the future. Copernicus total financial envelope is close to € 4.3 Bn during 2014-2020. Copernicus is expected to deliver direct and indirect benefits amounting to some € 30 Bn over the period 2014-2030, and the program will be critical to create and maintain some 40.000 skilled jobs in a high-tech sector of strategic importance for the EU.
The European Commission has the overall responsibility for Copernicus and for the coordination among its different components including management of the budget, overseeing the implementation and ensuring the coordination of Copernicus with related activities at national, EU and international level. The Commission also facilitates coordinated contributions from Member States for the operational delivery of data, supports the development of the services, ensures the complementarity and consistency with other EU policies and promotes a stable long-term investment climate.
2014 was a busy year for us: The legal framework of the program, the Copernicus Regulation was adopted, Sentinel-1A was launched successfully and key agreements with our European partners have been signed. The development of the space component, including the launch of the dedicated Sentinel satellites, has been delegated to the ESA (European Space Agency). The agency will ensure the technical coordination of the Copernicus Space Component, define its overall systems architecture and its evolution, ensure its technical coordination and develop new dedicated missions.
EUMETSAT will operate the Sentinel -3, -4, -5 and -6 missions. EUMETSAT will fly the Copernicus Sentinel-4 and Sentinel-5 atmosphere monitoring instruments on its Meteosat Third Generation (MTG) and MetOp Second-Generation (MetOp-SG) satellites, respectively, delivering unparalleled data services to Copernicus users. The operations of the Sentinels have been entrusted to ESA and to EUMETSAT, according to their specific know-how. The Sentinels are owned by the European Union.
One aspect, which makes Copernicus unique and distinguishes it from satellite missions of other countries, is the fact that the European Commission has entrusted service operators with implementation tasks to develop, ramp-up and operate the various Copernicus Services with the aim of transforming satellite data into user-friendly information and products. The European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) and Mercator Océan have been tasked with running the Atmosphere, Climate Change and Marine services. The emergency service is run by a consortium coordinated by e-Geos. Moreover, the European Environment Agency (EEA) is in charge of the land service and will coordinate the provision of data from in situ infrastructure. Additional services in the security area will be provided by the European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member States of the European Union (FRONTEX) and the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA).
Copernicus also builds on existing space infrastructure that does not form part of the family of dedicated Sentinel satellites. Thus, Copernicus provides a budget for acquiring data through ESA and EUMETSAT from satellites operated by commercial companies, the EU Member States or third countries. These are known as "contributing missions" and have provided satellite data for the program since its inception. They will continue doing so, particularly where very high resolution data are required, such as in the Land Monitoring, Emergency or Security applications.
EU Member States contribute to Copernicus in several ways: through the provision of nationally-owned space infrastructures, through the supply of data from non-space (“in situ”) data sources, or by participating, under the coordination of the European Commission, in the “collaborative ground segments”, in which Member States can have direct access to Sentinel data by funding and developing their own ground segment facilities (processing and archiving centers, country-specific applications, etc.).
As a global actor on the world stage, the EU requires independent information on how its policies and decisions impact and interact with other countries and regions in the rest of the world. Copernicus provides Europe with an autonomous capacity for Earth Observation, whilst simultaneously setting the stage for European participation in global initiatives both bilateral and multilateral. The free and open data policy of the Copernicus program fosters the role of "soft power" in the international arena.
By making its data, analyses, forecasts and maps freely available, Copernicus contributes towards the development of new innovative applications and services, tailored to the needs of specific groups of users, which touch on a variety of economic and cultural activities.
Figure 36: Overview of the Sentinel family spacecraft missions (image credit: ESA) 71)
The Sentinel missions mark a new era in Earth observation focusing on delivering a wealth of operational data for decades to come. The six different missions carry a range of state-of-the-art technologies to supply a stream of complementary imagery and data tailored to the needs of Europe’s environmental monitoring Copernicus program.
1) “Global Monitoring for Environment and Security,” EC/ESA team, Final Report for the GMES Initial Period (2001-2003), Feb. 10, 2004
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The information compiled and edited in this article was provided by Herbert J. Kramer from his documentation of: ”Observation of the Earth and Its Environment: Survey of Missions and Sensors” (Springer Verlag) as well as many other sources after the publication of the 4th edition in 2002. - Comments and corrections to this article are always welcome for further updates (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The Sentinel series: