The European program for of earth observation satellite COPERNICUS, formerly known as GMES (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security), is a complex program of earth observation satellite launched in 1998 by the European Commission and by a group of space agencies. The contribution of the “Old Continent”, in the broader GEOSS project, aims to develop a system of systems for the Global Earth Observation. But the main objective is to provide Europe with a substantial independence in the detection and management of data on the health of the planet, supporting the needs of European public policy through the provision of accurate and reliable environmental aspects and safety.
Among the applications declared “Priority” in the program, there are the management of natural disasters, monitoring of the oceans, vegetation and the atmosphere. But the development of the project requires that COPERNICUS covers an important role in other areas: those relating to climate change, civil protection and sustainable development. Without neglecting the impact of Community policies and social security: the system will ensure it can handle date and accurate, for example, on the movements of refugees, on the need for logistical support to military missions, on possible threats of terrorist character.
COPERNICUS is based on a series of five types of satellites, called Sentinel, specialized in specific applications. The Sentinel-1 will be used to produce interferometric radar data; the Sentinel-2, optical satellites are designed for observing multi spectral; the Sentinel-3 are specialized oceanographic and terrestrial; the Sentinel-4, type geostationary, are intended to monitor the atmospheric components; the Sentinel 5, finally, satellites in low orbit, will monitor the chemical composition of the atmosphere.
In particular, the Sentinel 3, which will be placed in a sun-synchronous near-polar orbit and will weigh about 1,200 pounds, is designed for oceanographic observations and monitoring of vegetation and will be able to observe the topography of the sea, the surface temperature of the water and land providing a decisive contribution to the forecasts of sea conditions, essential for safe navigation but also the Earth’s climate.
Inside the COPERNICUS program, the European Space Agency is responsible for the space segment of the program. In February 2008 the European Commission has allocated approximately 624 million euro for the development of the space segment of COPERNICUS, in addition to more than 700 million provided by ESA member countries. At the ministerial meeting in November 2008, the development of COPERNICUS were shot more than 831 million euro, of which 120 allocated by Italy.
The realization of the Sentinels has been attributed to major European companies: the company franc Italian Thales Alenia Space will implement Sentinel 1 and 3, while the German Astrium has been entrusted Sentinel 2.
Several Copernicus -related projects are co-financed by the European Commission under the 7th Framework Programme for Research or by the European Space Agency.
These projects complement existing Copernicus services and aim to improve land, atmosphere and marine monitoring services to citizens, whilst also monitoring natural hazards and taking on the climate change challenge. They also support cooperation with non-EU countries in the domain of environmental monitoring: Land Monitoring, Marine Monitoring, Atmosphere Monitoring, Climate Change, Emergency Management, Security, International Cooperation (Africa, Russia etc), Sentinel Data.