"Copernicus," named after a Polish astronomer, is one of two large space programs led by European Union, and deployed across all of Europe. "Copernicus," an Earth observation program, and "Galileo," a global positioning/navigation program were deployed as a pair of wheels for Europe's space industry expansion.
As the former name of Copernicus, Global Monitoring for Environment and Security（GMES）indicates, it is a global program to monitor the environments of lands, oceans and atmosphere for improving citizen's life and security in our modern times, when natural and other disaster risks are growing.
Copernicus is capable of fusing observation data from multiple sources including satellites and ground sensors, and deliver downloadable data products that users can access from the online platform as data services. Its operation until 2030 is committed and the EU is trying to secure funds to extend its mission beyond 2030.
Its data distribution is open and free globally; for all applications and use cases including research and commercial business, its use by individuals and organizations are free of charge in general. Just like other public infrastructure, such as ordinary national roadways and bridges, Copernicus is continuously operated as part of the public data infrastructure.
Structure of Copernicus System
Copernicus data products are generated using data from the following three sources.
1. Observation data acquired by "Sentinel," a new series of Earth observation satellites;
2. Data acquired by observation satellites operated by European Space Agency (ESA), European countries, and European Organization for the Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT)
3. Observation data acquired by vessels, aircraft, and ground facilities owned by public entities including European Environmental Agency, (EEA).
Copernicus's Data Service
The data products generated from the above-mentioned sources are categorized in 6 fields; each of these 6 core products is distributed as a core service through its own online data platform.
1. Observation of land areas;
2. Observation of oceans and water bodies;
3. Observation of the atmosphere;
4. Climate changes;
5. Risk management;
Observation of land areas and risk management began their operations in 2012 and observation of oceans and water bodies in 2014.
Application and Use Cases
Data on farmland, forests, sea surface, and land cover provided by Copernicus are used in many fields by a wide range of users including scientists, private enterprises, public agencies and municipal governments.
• Climate changes and energy;
• Ecosystem and environmental protection;
• Resource exploration;
• Disaster prevention and protection of citizens;
• Humanitarian assistance;
• Public health;
• Tourism and hospitality;
• Transport and safety;
• Urban and rural development.
Organization and Operating Fund
Copernicus is overseen and operated by the European Commission, an executive arm and an effective cabinet office of the European Union.
The EC is responsible for overall governance, financial planning and service delivery. The actual development and operations of the satellites as well as its data management are commissioned to the European Space Agency (ESA).
Research and Development budget: €3.4 billion Euro
€3.4 billion Euro was jointly funded by ESA and EC (ESA 72%, EC 28%) for 10 years from 2001.
2014-2020 Operational budget: €3.786 billion Euro
Copernicus became fully operational in 2014, from then its budget classification changed from R&D to EU Multi-year Fund Framework (MFF) to have €3.786 billion Euro appropriated for its operations from 2014 to 2020.
Political Background and Goal
"Copernicus" decided not to rely on the US for its capability to collect and manage global environment monitoring and security-related data; Copernicus was approved by the EU Council in June 2001 as an EU strategic program for sustainable development. This program, formerly known as GMES, formalized its structure through 10 years of discussion of experts representing industries, academia, and government agencies.
Copernicus is currently operated by Directorate-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs (DG-GROW) aiming at:
・Promotion of industries that support creation of new employment and business as well as business opportunities.
・Support of activities and decision-making of public organization, local governments and policy makers taking environmental impact into consideration.
The European Commission promotes new business creation with two contrivances in the Copernicus program. One is an environment where observation data is going to be continually provided at least until 2030, that enterprises and entrepreneurs can make investments and carry out their business and development plans with confidence in a long-term, stable provision of the data. The second contrivance is the open and free data delivery, which brings down the cost of business inception and development. It is a driver for small and medium-sized businesses and start-ups to create new applications and services using observation data. In other words, an environment where citizens, businesses, researchers, and policy makers can freely use information and services provided by Copernicus,supporting them in evaluating their activities and making decisions.
Future and Economic Benefit Copernicus Brings
Observation data is not only a privilege of a handful engineers and scientists. Instead, it is becoming a new commodity that is a part of big data. The goal of the Copernicus data service is to make observation data available continually, frequently, and free of charge, to bring a data revolution to the world.
Copernicus's daily data volume as of 2016 was 6 terabytes. It has potential as powerful "big data". Not only in the aerospace industry, Copernicus data will be integrated with IT technology in diverse areas such as big data analytics, AI, and deep learning to create even larger data society.
Transportation, oil and gas, insurance, agriculture, and many other economic segments are expected to benefit from accurate and reliable Earth observation data; multiple studies forecast that approximately €30 billion Euros-worth of economic benefit and 50 thousand jobs will be created.
Copernicus will continue supporting the creation of many innovative business models and promote the growth of a new market called "data service industry", developing new services and applications that are even more closely related to the society.
In the next article, an Earth observation satellite series Sentinel, which is a core of Copernicus observation data will be featured in detail.