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What is Kopernikus?

Kopernikus: Observing our planet for a safer world

The Kopernikus initiative has two main objectives:

  • the provision of sustainable, precise and reliable information concerning the environment and citizen’s security, produced under EU control and tailored to the needs of a wide range of users;
  • the creation of massive opportunities for European companies, in particular small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which will give a huge boost to innovation and employment in Europe.

Kopernikus services will allow us to monitor:

  • the greenhouse gases that warm our planet
  • the reactive gases that influence the quality of the air we breathe
  • the ozone layer and levels of solar UV radiation reaching the ground
  • the aerosols that affect temperature and air quality

Further, Kopernikus services will enable improved management of natural resources, including water, soil and forests, not only in Europe itself, but also in other continents, including Africa. Finally, Kopernikus services will help protect our citizens from harm, e.g. through the monitoring of forest fires and other natural and man-made disasters.

Why the name Kopernikus?

Nikolaus Kopernikus was a famous astronomer born in the Hanseatic city of Thorn, (today Toruń), who greatly advanced the science of astronomy in his time by postulating that the Earth revolves around the Sun. His works and the current initiative therefore have a fundamental objective in common: improving the knowledge about our planet. Moreover, Kopernikus was a true European. It is therefore appropriate to use his name for an initiative that will be implemented within a partnership which includes the EU, its Member States and others.

The Architecture of Kopernikus

The Kopernikus architecture comprises:

  • a Service component providing information for a broad range of environmental and security-related application areas and stimulating a downstream sector serving numerous applications on both a local and global scale.
  • an Observation Infrastructure component with two sub-components for space-based and airborne, seaborne and ground based (so-called ”in situ”) infrastructure.

Kopernikus offers business opportunities

Kopernikus services will deliver information to a chain of information re-processors and end-users on a sustained basis. The “Kopernikus economy” will grow by attracting increased investment in the value-adding market to provide innovative applications to meet increasing user demands and expectations.

The definition and implementation of services and related observation infrastructure is driven by user requirements. Kopernikus user communities include institutional users such as the EU institutions, European intergovernmental institutions, public-sector users within EU Member States, European public-sector users from non EU Member States, non-European public sector users, institutional research communities. Non-institutional users will consist primarily of downstream service providers.

Scope of the Kopernikus services

Through its service component, Kopernikus will ensure the regular observation and monitoring of Earth sub-systems, the atmosphere, oceans, and continental surfaces, and will provide reliable, validated and guaranteed information in support of a broad range of environmental and security applications and decisions.

Kopernikus will provide the following services:

  • a land monitoring service providing information in support of European policies, such as environmental policies (nature protection and biodiversity, natural resources, environmental hazards, environmental impact assessment, water framework directive), regional policies, territorial cohesion and spatial development, Common Transport Policy, policies relating to SMEs and the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)
  • a marine service providing information on the state of the oceans, including sea level, currents, salinity, oil slicks
  • an atmosphere service providing information concerning chemical composition of the atmosphere driving climate change, and air quality as well as information on solar radiation
  • a service in support of emergency response will address natural disasters e.g. weather-driven hazards (e.g. storms, fires, floods), geophysical hazards (e.g. earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, landslides and subsidence), man-made disasters and humanitarian and civil emergencies (such emergencies are complex and require multi-disciplinary response)
  • a service in support of security, e.g. in the field of maritime surveillance carried out by coast guards or critical infrastructure monitoring to reduce the number of terrorist attacks

Specific services targeting the issue of climate change will be developed transversely by integrating existing applications from specialized marine, land, and atmosphere services.

Kopernikus services should be fully and openly accessible within the restrictions imposed by the overall legal and policy framework (e.g. security issues). This is in line with the principles of the European Shared Environmental Information System (SEIS), and Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS) initiatives to promote the widest possible sharing and use of Earth observation data and information.

Kopernikus infrastructure

In order to provide Kopernikus services, service providers will depend on input from space and in situ observation infrastructure. In many cases, observation infrastructure has already been developed and put into operation by Member States. This existing infrastructure should be reused as much as possible in order to avoid duplication. Only when – following a careful analysis of gaps in provision – existing capabilities are found to be inadequate in meeting user requirements, will new developments be launched and financed by the EU. This is the case, in particular, for the space infrastructure developed by the European Space Agency (ESA), the coordinator of the implementation of the Kopernikus space component. The provision of data from in situ infrastructure will be coordinated by the European Environmental Agency (EEA).

Kopernikus and Galileo

Galileo and Kopernikus are complementary systems making use of satellite technologies. Both systems have their strategic value as each of them has its own mission, which do not overlap.

Galileo is essentially a ‘navigation’ system providing a permanent and more accurate than ever positioning and timing services worldwide.

Kopernikus is an ‘earth observation’ system providing information on the state of our environment and improving the security of our citizens.

Success stories thus far

Even before the launching of the fast track and pilot services this year, the EC and ESA have carried out successful research projects in order to prepare operational Kopernikus services. Examples of successful applications include:

  • an atmosphere service that provides information on long-range transport of air pollutants, including objective measurements of particulate matter that can be used to justify car traffic limitations;
  • a service providing information of Tsunami affected areas in Indonesia for preparedness and reconstruction support;
  • Space observation to improve risk management of landslides, avalanches and floods in Alpine regions (see IP/05/756).