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Copernicus programme
Program overview
Country European Union
OrganizationEuropean Commission
PurposeEarth monitoring
Programme history
Cost€5,421 billion (2021-2027)

Copernicus is the Earth observation component of the European Union Space Programme, managed by the European Commission and implemented in partnership with the EU Member States, the European Space Agency (ESA), the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT), the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), the Joint Research Centre (JRC), the European Environment Agency (EEA), the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA), Frontex, SatCen and Mercator Océan.[1]

The programme aims at achieving a global, continuous, autonomous, high quality, wide range Earth observation capacity. Providing accurate, timely and easily accessible information to, among other things, improve the management of the environment, understand and mitigate the effects of climate change, and ensure civil security.

Since 2021, Copernicus is a component of the EU Space Programme, which aims to bolster the EU Space policy in the fields of Earth Observation, Satellite Navigation, Connectivity, Space Research and Innovation and supports investments in critical infrastructure and disruptive technologies.

Program definition

The objective for Copernicus is to use vast amount of global data from satellites and from ground-based, airborne and seaborne measurement systems to produce timely and quality information, services and knowledge, and to provide autonomous and independent access to information in the domains of environment and security on a global level in order to help service providers, public authorities and other international organizations improve the quality of life for the citizens of Europe. In other words, it pulls together all the information obtained by the Copernicus environmental satellites, air and ground stations and sensors to provide a comprehensive picture of the "health" of Earth.[2]

One of the benefits of the Copernicus programme is that the data and information produced in the framework of Copernicus are made available free-of-charge [3] to all its users and the public, thus allowing downstream services to be developed.

The services offered by Copernicus cover six main interacting themes: atmosphere, marine, land, climate, emergency and security.[4]

Copernicus builds upon three components:

It was named after the scientist and observer Nicolaus Copernicus. Copernicus' theory of the heliocentric universe made a pioneering contribution to modern science.[6]

Its costs during 1998 to 2020 are estimated at €6.7 billion with around €4.3 billion spent in the period 2014 to 2020 and shared between the EU (67%) and ESA (33%) with benefits of the data to the EU economy estimated at €30 billion through 2030.[7] ESA as a main partner has performed much of the design and oversees and co-funds the development of Sentinel missions 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 with each Sentinel mission consisting of at least 2 satellites and some, such as Sentinel 1, 2 and 3, consisting of 4 satellites.[8] They will also provide the instruments for Meteosat Third Generation and MetOp-SG weather satellites of EUMETSAT where ESA and EUMETSAT will also coordinate the delivery of data from upwards of 30 satellites that form the contributing satellite missions to Copernicus.[9]

Italy and the Mediterranean, image captured by Copernicus Sentinel-3A on 28 September 2016.


The Copernicus programme was established by the Regulation (EU) No 377/2014 [3] in 2014, building on the previous EU's Earth monitoring initiative GMES (established by Regulation (EU) No 911/2010 [10]).

Over a few decades, European and national institutions have made substantial R&D efforts in the field of Earth observation. These efforts have resulted in tremendous achievements but the services and products developed during this period had limitations that were inherent to R&D activities (e.g. lack of service continuity on the long-term). The idea for a global and continuous European Earth observation system was developed under the name of Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) which was later re-branded into Copernicus after the EU became directly involved in financing and development. It follows and greatly expands on the work of the previous €2.3 billion European Envisat programme which operated from 2002 to 2012.[11]

Copernicus moved from R&D to operational services following a phased approach. Pre-operational services (Fast Track Services and Pilot Services) were phased in between 2008 and 2010. Copernicus initial operations began in 2011. Copernicus became fully operational in 2014.[12]


Earth Observation missions

Sentinel missions

ESA is currently developing seven missions under the Sentinel programme (Sentinel 1, 2, 3, 4, 5P, 5, 6). The Sentinel missions include radar and super-spectral imaging for land, ocean and atmospheric monitoring. Each Sentinel mission is based on a constellation of two satellites to fulfill and revisit the coverage requirements for each mission, providing robust datasets for all Copernicus services.

The Sentinel missions have the following objectives:

In preparation for the second-generation of Copernicus (Copernicus 2.0), six High Priority Candidate "expansion" missions are currently being studied by ESA to address EU Policy and gaps in Copernicus user needs, and to increase the current capabilities of the Copernicus Space Component:

Contributing missions

Before the Sentinel missions provide data to Copernicus, numerous existing or planned space missions provide or will provide data useful to the provision of Copernicus services. These missions are often referred to as "Copernicus Contributing Missions (CCMs)":

Data provided by non-European satellite missions (e.g. Landsat, GOSAT, Radarsat-2) can also be used by Copernicus.

In-Situ Coordination

GMES In-Situ Coordination (GISC) was a FP7 funded initiative, lasted for three years (January 2010 – December 2012) and was coordinated by the European Environment Agency (EEA). Since 2014 EEA has been responsible for Copernicus In-Situ coordination under the Contribution Agreement between the EU (represented by the European Commission) and the EEA, signed 1 December 2014.

In situ data are all data from sources other than Earth observation satellites. Consequently, all ground-based, air-borne, and ship/buoy-based observations and measurements that are needed to implement and operate the Copernicus services are part of the in-situ component. In-situ data are indispensable; they are assimilated into forecasting models, provide calibration and validation of space-based information, and contribute to analysis or filling gaps not available from space sources.

GISC was undertaken with reference to other initiatives, such as INSPIRE (Infrastructure for Spatial Information in the European Community) and SEIS (Shared Environmental Information System) as well as existing coordination and data exchange networks. The coordinated access to data retains the capacity to link directly data providers and the service providers because it is based on the principles of SEIS and INSPIRE. The implementation of INSPIRE is embedded in the synergies and meta-data standards that were used in GISC. Data and information aims to be managed as close as possible to its source in order to achieve a distributed system, by involving countries and existing capacities that maintain and operate the required observation infrastructure.

Services component

Copernicus services are dedicated to the monitoring and forecasting of the Earth's subsystems. They contribute directly to the monitoring of climate change. Copernicus services also address emergency management (e.g. in case of natural disaster, technological accidents or humanitarian crises) and security-related issues (e.g. maritime surveillance, border control).

Copernicus services address six main thematic areas:

The development of the pre-operational version of the services has been realised by a series of projects launched by the European Commission and partly funded through the EU's 7th Framework Programme (FP7). These projects were geoland2 (land), MyOcean (marine), SAFER (emergency response), MACC and its successor MACC II (atmosphere) and G-MOSAIC (security). Most of these projects also contributed to the monitoring of Climate Change.


"The information provided by the Copernicus services can be used by end-users for a wide range of applications in a variety of areas. These include urban area management, sustainable development and nature protection, regional and local planning, agriculture, forestry and fisheries, health, civil protection, infrastructure, transport and mobility, as well as tourism".[4]

Copernicus is the European Union's contribution to the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS) thus delivering geospatial information globally.

Some Copernicus services make use of OpenStreetMap data in their maps production.[39]

Other relevant initiatives

Other initiatives will also facilitate the development and functioning of Copernicus services:

Copernicus is one of three related initiatives that are the subject of the GIGAS (GEOSS, INSPIRE and GMES an Action in Support) harmonization and analysis project [40] under the auspices of the EU 7th Framework Programme.[41]

Third country participation

In addition to the 27 Member States of the European Union, the Copernicus programme allows for the participation at various scope for third country participation. This participation is conducted through agreements with the European Union. One has to distinguish those countries that contribute to the budget and those that agree on exchanging data with the program. Many international partner countries get special access to Sentinel data in exchange for sharing in-situ data from their country. These states are:

2014–2020 budget contributing countries

Data exchange

Discussions ongoing with: Argentina, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, China (part of Space Dialogue)

2021–2027 budget contributing countries


See also


  1. ^ "About Copernicus | Copernicus". Retrieved 20 January 2023.
  2. ^ "What is Copernicus?". Archived from the original on 3 November 2018. Retrieved 11 October 2018.
  3. ^ a b "Regulation (EU) No 377/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 3 April 2014 establishing the Copernicus programme and repealing Regulation (EU) No 911/2010". European Union. 3 April 2014. Retrieved 11 October 2018.
  4. ^ a b "Copernicus In Brief". Archived from the original on 15 August 2018. Retrieved 11 October 2018.
  5. ^ "ESA, Copernicus, Overview". ESA. 28 October 2014. Retrieved 26 April 2016.
  6. ^ "About Copernicus | Copernicus". Retrieved 13 January 2021.
  7. ^ "ESA, Earth observation: first Copernicus satellite Sentinel 1A". European Commission. 3 April 2014. Retrieved 26 April 2016.
  8. ^ "Earth-Observation Satellite and Einstein-Challenging Physics Experiment Launch Into Space". 26 April 2016. Retrieved 26 April 2016.
  9. ^ "Earth Observation Satellites". 3 April 2014. Retrieved 26 April 2016.
  10. ^ "Regulation (EU) No 911/2010 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 September 2010 on the European Earth monitoring programme (GMES) and its initial operations (2011 to 2013)". European Union. 22 September 2010. Retrieved 11 October 2018.
  11. ^ "European Space Agency Envisat Program". ESA. Retrieved 30 December 2022.
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  16. ^ Ecosystem, Copernicus Data Space (23 March 2024). "Copernicus Data Space Ecosystem | Europe's eyes on Earth". Retrieved 22 April 2024.
  17. ^ "Copernicus: Sentinel-1". Retrieved 28 December 2022.
  18. ^ "Arianespace boosts Sentinel-1A Earth observation satellite into orbit" (Press release). 3 April 2014. Retrieved 21 October 2014.
  19. ^ "Copernicus: Sentinel-2". Retrieved 28 December 2022.
  20. ^ "Earth Observation Satellite Sentinel-2A Ready to Launch". European Space Agency. SpaceRef. 9 June 2016. Retrieved 10 June 2015.[permanent dead link]
  21. ^ "Copernicus: Sentinel-3". Retrieved 28 December 2022.
  22. ^ "Sentinel-3 stacks up". ESA. 24 April 2014. Retrieved 17 August 2014.
  23. ^ "Sentinel-3A on its way".
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  25. ^ "Meteosat Series – Future Satellites". EUMETSAT. 21 November 2022. Retrieved 21 November 2022.
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  28. ^ "ESA Sentinels-4, -5 and -5P". Retrieved 23 February 2015.
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  30. ^ "Copernicus: Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich". Retrieved 28 December 2022.
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  32. ^ Dodson, Gerelle (20 December 2022). "NASA Awards Launch Services Contract for Sentinel-6B Mission". NASA. Retrieved 20 December 2022.
  33. ^ a b c d e "Thales Alenia Space proposals for the Copernicus project selected by European Space Agency" (Press release). Thales Group. 2 July 2020. Retrieved 5 July 2020.
  34. ^ Gerhards, Max; Schlerf, Martin; Mallick, Kaniska; Udelhoven, Thomas (24 May 2019). "Challenges and Future Perspectives of Multi-/Hyperspectral Thermal Infrared Remote Sensing for Crop Water-Stress Detection: A Review". Remote Sensing. 11 (10): 1240. Bibcode:2019RemS...11.1240G. doi:10.3390/rs11101240. Retrieved 5 July 2020.
  35. ^ "Oppdraget over for radarsatellitten Sentinel-1B" [Mission over for the Sentinel-1B radar satellite]. Norwegian Space Agency (in Norwegian). 12 August 2022. Retrieved 14 September 2022.
  36. ^ "ESA declares end of mission for Envisat". ESA. 9 May 2012.
  37. ^ OroraTech Signs contract to deliver data to the EU SpaceWatch Global. 20 June 2023, retrieved 25 June 2023
  38. ^ Tour of French New Space 2023: Promethee 23 August 2023, retrieved 10 April 2024
  39. ^ Copernicus EMS (25 August 2016). "@OpenStreetMapIt @Ale_Zena_IT Indeed, last OSM shapefile used in our maps production is from 11am today. Thank you for your precious help".
  40. ^ GIGAS Methodology for comparative analysis of information and data management systems, OGC 10-028r1, A. Biancalana, P.G. Marchetti, P. Smits, 2010
  41. ^ "The GIGAS Project". Archived from the original on 14 August 2009. Retrieved 5 August 2009.
  42. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Copernicus international data exchange agreements". 12 June 2018. Retrieved 12 October 2021.
  43. ^ "UK to rejoin EU Horizon research programme". 6 September 2023. Retrieved 6 October 2023.