CNES projects library

July 19, 2023


The ambition of Copernicus is to give Europe its own independent capability to observe and monitor Earth.

A European programme to take the planet's pulse in real time.

Taking its cue from the way weather forecasting leverages space-based and in-situ measurements in optimal fashion, the European Union and the European Space Agency (ESA) launched the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) initiative in 2001 to encourage development of operational services offering easy access to environmental information.

The aim is to rationalize usage of environment and security data derived from multiple sources in order to provide reliable information and services when needed. Renamed Copernicus in 2012, the programme pools all data from the Sentinel series of Earth-observation satellites and in-situ instruments to deliver a comprehensive and synoptic view of the planet.

For environmental monitoring, Copernicus will make it possible to track changes in land use and land cover, characterize land surface bio-geophysical variables, predict ocean state, support crisis management in natural or man-made disaster areas, monitor the chemical composition and quality of air, reanalyse essential climate variables (ECVs) and develop tools for establishing climate services.

For security aspects, it will aid enforcement of international treaties, support peacekeeping operations and assist European border surveillance.

To accomplish these missions, Copernicus relies on a dedicated constellation of Sentinel satellites providing radar and optical imagery, altimetry measurements and data on atmospheric composition, and on other contributing missions providing national, European and international infrastructures. France is contributing to this team effort by providing satellites like SPOT, Jason and Pleiades. Alongside these space assets, member states supply in-situ data and a ground segment for data acquisition, processing and distribution. Copernicus is today fully operational, with eight Sentinel missions in orbit and six delegated thematic services. Access to Copernicus data is open and free of charge. Copernicus is Europe’s contribution to the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), an Earth-observation programme initiated by the EU, the United States, Japan and South Africa.