Copernicus: this is how a satellite “fleet” will study the Planet
Copernicus is a complex Earth observation system launched by the European Commission comprising a set of “sentinel” satellites equipped to provide reliable and updated data about climate and environment. Its main objectives are sustainable development, the management of natural disasters and citizens’ security.
With the launch of sentinel-1A satellite occurred last April 2014 from Europe’s spaceport in Kourou, French Guyana, the Earth observation and monitoring programme Copernicus has officially started, although it has been implemented since 1998 by the European Space Agency (ESA) under the European Commission coordination. Previously known as GMES (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security), Copernicus now aims at providing Europe with a continuous and independent access to Earth observation data.
Copernicus system is composed of a set of five different satellites, called Sentinels. Each type has a specific objective to accomplish: Sentinel-1 satellites were designed to collect interferometric radar data. Sentinel-2 are dedicated to obtain multispectral images. Sentinel-3 are specialized in the observation of the earth and oceans. Sentinel-4 is a set of geostationary satellites that will provide data for atmospheric composition monitoring; Sentinel-5 is a low-Earth orbit dedicated to atmosphere chemical composition monitoring. The satellites are designed to provide information about climate, land, vegetation, atmosphere and oceans and will help to improve the management of environmental conservation and emergency, together with environment, agriculture, health, as well as easing the flow of transportation. Thanks to this integrated monitoring system, Copernicus will positively affect society and security. In fact, data provided by this system may help to provide emergency management with logistic support or also prevent from terroristic threats.
Until 2013, Copernicus had been funded €2.4 billion, 30% of this sum being supplied by EU (€730 million) and the missing part by ESA. Now, between 2014 and 2020, the Commission will be covering one third of total costs for Copernicus space infrastructures, which is almost €3.3 million, while funds from ESA will be around €1,7 million. In view of this, the Copernicus Programme will immediately result in social and economic improvements. Some studies showed that Copernicus may create around 50,000 new jobs in Europe by 2030 as well as boost economic benefits by €30 million.
Although Space field and environmental data spread sector will particularly benefit from the new programme, Copernicus will also positively affect many other fields including transports, agriculture and renewable energy sources. The main European enterprises have been involved in the “sentinel” satellite development, i.e. the French-Italian Thales Alenia Space, that will build sentinels 1 and 3 satellites, Sentinel 2 having been assigned to the European Astrium aerospace enterprise. Moreover, ground stations or Core Ground Segments, whose role is to collect a huge quantity of data from satellites, play an important role inside the whole programme. One these stations is the Geodesy Space Centre in Matera. In Matera, the Italian Collaborative Ground Segment is also settled, being the Italian component of Copernicus earth system, that aims at sharing data from Sentinel-1 with national users such as institutions, research centers and industries.