Copernicus – European constellation of the future

Copernicus – European constellation of the future


It all started with GMES (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security) to become Copernicus – a joint cooperation of European Union and European Space Agency. Copernicus is an response to the US program of Landsat observation.

The system, which dates back to the 90s, is a complex and comprehensive activity that serves collecting, compiling and analysing data obtained from space.

It consist of constellation of artificial satellites with the common name Sentinel and a ground segment.

Program mission

Improper and irresponsible behaviour regarding natural resources has led to many environmental problems and anomalies. Excessive exploitation of such deposits, irresponsible activities in agriculture and civil engineering is inevitably changing our planet and our living comfort.

In response to emerging problems, the world decided to observe and analyse such changes to be able to notice them in time and consequently – react to global irregularities. The Copernicus program is one of the solutions.

Data obtained from the satellites are used free of charge by public, commercial and scientific entities. It expands their knowledge and allows building awareness of the surrounding world.

The public form of data and the ease of their acquisition results in scientific analysis, leading to responsible decision making in the fields of e.g. agriculture

Sentinel tools

The main and most well-known tool of the Copernicus program is the Sentinel satellite system, which, starting from the Sentinel 1A sent into the space in 2014, constantly monitors and transfers high-quality data from space. Individual missions have the following tasks:


Sentinel-1 – first Copernicus satellite, continuation of ERS, Radarsat and Envisat missions. It consists of two circumpolar satellites using SAR radar imaging technology. Its main task is the uninterrupted and independent of meteorological conditions data collection from height of 693 km and their collection in 4 modes: band, interferometric broad, wide and wave. Thanks to the possibility of obtaining data regardless of the weather it is possible to e.g. monitor the Arctic ice range, map seas and ice covers, monitor marine environment in terms of safety, support humanitarian aid or crisis situation.


Sentinel-2 – a mission to obtain high resolution images for mapping, vegetation imaging, soil and water cover, inland waterways and coastal areas, observation of natural disasters and support in the planning and organization of humanitarian aid.


Sentinel-3 – multi-instrument topographic mission. Its main objective is to map the seas and land surfaces to facilitate forecasting of oceanic phenomena and to improve environmental and climate monitoring.


Sentinel-4 – will serve to monitor the atmosphere, air quality and radiation levels. It will be integrated on the third generation Meteosat satellite on a geostationary orbit.


Sentintel-5 Precursor Sentinel-5P – the first element of the Sentinel-5 system, whose task will be to detect trace gases and aerosols that affect air quality and cause climate change. Its second task is to supplement and maintain information continuity between the Envisat satellite operating until now and the Sentinel-5 satellite.


Sentinel-5 – in addition to standard information activities its mission is also an advanced study of the elemental composition of the atmosphere to analyse and properly interpret the climate change of the planet.


Sentinel-6 – using the activities and information of previous satellites, supplements the topographic analysis of the seas and oceans for the purposes of operational oceanography and climate research.


Additional extra-terrestrial components are also instruments placed earlier and administered by ESA, EUMETSAT (European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites) and other satellites owned by commercial entities, which in the program function as supporting missions.


An indispensable and detailed element of the European system is a set of ground tools, which consists of river and sea sensors, meteorological balloons, local observatories and measurement stations. They complement and help to calibrate satellite data.

Fields of observation activities and benefits

The word „comprehensive” used in the description above is not exaggerating. The system is multi-element – both in the sources of data collection/observation and work effects. Its applications include monitoring of the atmosphere, water and land environments, analysing climate change, meteorological observations and security support or crisis management. Such a wide range of services gives the Copernicus program a high position in the group of global tools supporting the responsible presence of people on the planet.

Long range effects and surprising applications

In addition to the „expected” effects of the Copernicus program, it is worth paying attention to the non-standard pluses resulting from the ongoing activities and analyses of data, and the wide and committed approach of its users.

Translating information obtained from the program into the appropriate location of the wind farm or agricultural crops adequate to the microclimate brings benefits for investors, recipients and the planet itself. Biodiversity of species, efficiency of crop or wind economy directly translates into quality and price conditions of offered services or products.


Monitoring tourist environments in terms of safety and quality, analysing the thickness of the snow cover, unstable water level, or the degree of pollution are just some of the features that can be monitored with the help of the Copernicus program.


Responsible and organized maritime and inland transport, future-oriented urban projects, taking into account the comfort of residents, as well as crisis management and monitoring in the service of state security is also one of the effects of the analysis and use of data from the program.


Well-processed and used data from the Copernicus program are not only a source of information and prediction of the near future. They can revolutionize and improve our functioning on Earth, and taken into account at the level of city management will help to fight pollution and badly developed infrastructure.

The global undertone of the program

The pro-educational aspect of the mission and openness in obtaining data from the program is one of the major advantages of Copernicus, which, combined with the quality of the services offered, makes the European idea one of the main solutions that can compete with the Landsat program.


As a result of its coordinated actions, the European program has achieved quality, competitiveness and what matters most in the geopolitical sphere – independence.


Nothing, however, stands in the way of a far-off future, to imagine and analyse data for one of the basic benefits – improving the quality of life and ensuring security through responsible living in our planet.


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