Thursday, 11 December 2014

Copernicus, latest developments on the EU programme observing the earth

Copernicus is the EU Earth Observation and Monitoring System and constitutes a key contribution to the Union’s 2020 Strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. It is a civil, independent, user- driven programme, aiming to provide accurate and reliable information in the field of the environment and security, on a full, open and free-of charge basis. 

Copernicus, will consist of a complex set of systems, which will collect data from earth observation satellites (the so-called Sentinels), in situ sensors such as ground stations, airborne and seaborne sensors. Its total financial envelope is EUR 4.291,48 million for the current 2014-2020 EU financial period. Following the adoption of Regulation 377/2014 on the 3rd of April 2014, establishing the Copernicus Programme (hereinafter “the Regulation”), significant progress was made on the development of the Programme.  

Developments on Governance of the Copernicus Programme

According to Article 9 of the Regulation, the Commission has the overall responsibility for Copernicus and for the coordination among its different components. For the implementation of the Programme, the Regulation entrusts the Commission with the power to conclude agreements with European intergovernmental organizations, as well as with other competent entities.

To that effect, on the 28th of October 2014, the Commission signed a Delegation Agreement with ESA for the technical coordination of the Copernicus space component, the definition of its architecture, the development and procurement of space assets, data access and the operation of dedicated missions. In addition a Delegation Agreement was signed with EUMETSAT for the operation of dedicated missions in accordance with its expertise and mandate.

For service component implementation tasks, dedicated delegation agreements have been signed with the European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) on the 11th of November 2014, and the European Environment Agency (EEA) on the 1st of December 2014. Agreements with the European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member States of the European Union (FRONTEX), the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA), are expected to be signed in the beginning of 2015.

Developments on Copernicus Satellites

The first Copernicus Satellite, Sentinel 1A, was launched on the 3rd of April 2014 from Kourou. As it has been reported by ΕSA, on the 28th of November 2014, Sentinel 1A and Alphasat, a satellite in geostationary orbit, have linked up by lazer, to enable the continuous delivery of data to Earth.

The launch of Sentinel 2A and Sentinel 3A, is expected in 2015/2016 and the launch of the subsequent Sentinels, later in 2016/2017.  The European Commission’s goal is to deploy Copernicus infrastructure and to make its services operational by 2017.  

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