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Editorial: a year of achievements and Copernicus plans for 2018!

Copernicus Observer

Dear readers of Copernicus Observer,


I would like to wish you all a very Happy New Year!


2017 was set to be a landmark year in the history of the Copernicus programme, as Sentinel satellites were scheduled for launch, the DIAS tenders were planned, and additional instruments and initiatives focused on promoting the use of Copernicus data and services were in the making. As the Director for Space Policy, Copernicus and Defence at the European Commission´s DG GROW, I would like to take a step back and reflect on the highlights of the past year and share our 2018 plans for Copernicus with you.



Six core Copernicus services impacting citizens’ lives and the EU’s global footprint.


According to our records, over 743 Copernicus information products – actionable geoinformation and intelligence - are now available from Copernicus for the support of environmental security and policies. This demonstrates that the six core Copernicus services continued to impact peoples’ lives throughout 2017 but also played a role in ascertaining the EU´s role as a global soft power. But let’s check out some of the activities and achievements of our services:


  • Our Emergency Management Service (EMS) Mapping component was activated more than 80 times in 2017 to assist civil protection authorities and humanitarian actors in emergency preparedness and response activities. Disasters covered include: storms and floods in Europe, forest fires in Spain, Portugal, Greece, hurricane Ophelia in Ireland, windfall in Poland and internationally – Hurricanes Harvey and Irma in the US and the Caribbean as well as earthquakes in Mexico and Iraq.


  • The Global component portfolio of our Land Monitoring Service now delivers over 20 variables linked to the water, energy, vegetation and cryosphere domains. In addition, there was an increase in the use of Corine Land Cover, EU-DEM (both from the pan-European component) and Urban Atlas (from local component) products.


  • Our Marine Environmental Monitoring Service released new waves observations and forecasts, as well as ocean monitoring indicators (OMIs), and published the first Annual Ocean State Report, a first step in the development of regular annual reporting.


  • Our Climate Change Service started delivering monthly sea ice extent and temperature anomalies maps as well as seasonal forecasts. Pilot Sectoral Information Services have also been developed to plan for the impact of climate change on specific sectors such as energy, water, agriculture and forestry.


  • Our Atmosphere Monitoring Service is now supporting the European Air Quality Monitoring Index and delivering a global reanalysis data set (for the 2003-2017 period).


  • Our Security Services have reached operational status and their on-demand products have been used extensively by institutional users to support EU policies, in particular border and maritime surveillance, and actions outside the EU territory.



Two new members in the Copernicus Sentinel family.


But 2017 was not only successful for the Copernicus programme in terms of services, but also in regard to the Copernicus Space Component. In March, Sentinel-2B joined the Copernicus constellation. With Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-2 twin satellites in orbit the promise of delivering free and open data with a 5-day revisit time from both optical and SAR instruments is being fulfilled. In addition, Sentinel-5P was launched in October, further developing the Copernicus observation capabilities and providing reliable and timely information about atmospheric pollutants on a global scale.


Left: Launch of Sentinel-2B in French Guiana on March 7, 2017. Right: Artist impression of Sentinel-5P in orbit. Sentinel-5P was successfully launched into orbit on October 13, 2017.



New paradigm in data access and distribution.


The six Copernicus satellites currently in orbit are producing over 12 TB of high-quality full, free, and open Earth Observation data every day – this is equivalent to over 6,000 DVDs per day. This amount creates great opportunities as well as complex logistical challenges in a big data setting. But 2017 will be remembered as the starting point of a new paradigm in respect to data access and distribution. Firstly, because traditional data distribution systems have been significantly strengthened, by being linked to the high bandwidth GÉANT network and doubled in terms of bandwidth from 10 Gbps to 20 Gbps. Secondly, because the European Commission launched the Copernicus Data and Information Access Services (DIAS) to develop cloud-enabled platforms to access and process Copernicus data in an easier and simpler way. Once the DIAS services are operational, there will be no more long download times or storage issues, while all the Copernicus data and information will be available in a few clicks.



Copernicus Market Development: to ensure access to Copernicus data and information, to increase awareness and use, and to boost innovation.


Another remarkable achievement of the past year is the inflexion in the use of Copernicus data: more than 120,000 people are now registered as active Copernicus users and there has been a steep increase in the use of the Copernicus information supplied by the six services.


The European Commission has been promoting the use of Copernicus data and services, and a wealth of initiatives have been developed during the year. These actions have aroused vast interest from public institutions, entrepreneurs, scientists, academia and citizens in EU countries – and beyond. Let’s have a look at the main activities, initiatives and instruments which were developed in 2017:


  • The Copernicus Relays, the Copernicus Academy and the Copernicus Support Office: The Copernicus Relays and Academy networks, launched by the European Commission at the beginning of the year and officially kicked-off in June at the European Parliament, are a ground-breaking tool for the development of the use of Copernicus data and information. These two networks gather 63 Relays and 90 Academy members that have organised and supported more than 300 events and reached out to 30 000 potential users so far. The Copernicus Support Office, dedicated to animating the Academy and Relays networks, also started activities in 2017. Beyond that, our Support Office also operates a helpdesk open to anyone interested in the programme. It has already handled more than 1500 enquiries with a 97% satisfaction rate and supported more than 30 events across the Participating Countries.


  • The Copernicus Accelerator and the newly-launched Copernicus Incubation programme are the heart of the Copernicus entrepreneurship endeavors. Thanks to these EU-funded instruments, a total of 110 start-ups will be boosted into the market. In addition, the Copernicus Masters competition 2017, with more than 200 business ideas submitted, awarded 14 prizes for the most innovative applications of the year at the European Space Week in Tallinn, Estonia.


  • The Copernicus Skills programme was also launched, with an ERASMUS+ sectoral skill alliance for Earth Observation, and with a large participation of Copernicus Academy members. In addition, a Framework Partnership Agreement was kicked off to enable co-funding of user uptake activities with Member States.


  • Eleven Copernicus Climathons - 24h climate change hackathons using Copernicus data and information -were organised in 11 European cities by the Climate-KIC (Knowledge and Innovation Community) with the support of the European Commission. Also, a total amount of €6 million coming from different H2020 calls was dedicated to support innovation and research within the Copernicus programme.


  • Successful organisation of key events across Europe. A series of high-level conferences and events took place throughout Europe to promote Copernicus and increasing awareness of the programme: the high-level conference in Rome for the 60th Anniversary of the Treaties of Rome to celebrate Space for EU integration, the EU Space Week 2017 in Tallinn that showcased European Space programmes and gathered more than 1,500 attendees over 6 days, the launch Ceremony of the Copernicus Relays and Academy Networks at the European Parliament in Brussels, and the four industry workshops to gather inputs from industry and users.


The "Copernicus Goes Local – Implementing the Space Strategy for Europe" event gathered more than 300 Earth Observation actors and industry representatives from across Europe at the European Parliament in Brussels to witness the official launch of Copernicus Academy and Relays.


High-level event ‘Space Policy for EU integration’ in the framework of the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Treaties of Rome. (© European Commission)



A strong EU presence on the international Earth Observation scene.


Copernicus has once again demonstrated to be more than an EU programme operating within European borders.  Copernicus Cooperation Arrangements were signed with the United States and Australia, and negotiations are ongoing with Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, the African Union Commission, India, Serbia and Ukraine. In addition, three regional workshops have been organised in Latin America and ASEAN, promoting Copernicus solutions beyond EU borders.


The European Commission has also taken over chairmanship of the Committee for Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS), an opportunity to set the agenda and move forward in key areas such as CO2 monitoring, data distribution, access, exchange, standardization and better response to user needs. This further proves that the European Commission is now recognised as a major Space player -  in the wake of the Lisbon Treaty which gave the EU competence over Space policy in 2009, and thanks to our efforts and investments in the Copernicus programme.


We feel proud of what has been achieved with the support of our partners the European Space Agency (ESA), the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT), the European Environment Agency (EEA), the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), Mercator Océan, the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA), the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) and the European Union Satellite Centre (SatCen) – it was a great year of collaboration.


After a great lift-off into 2018, we should look ahead and continue the good work. Therefore, our New Year’s resolutions are focused on the tasks and challenges ahead:


  • Launch of Sentinel-3B. Once the Sentinel-3 twin satellites are in orbit, the on-board instruments will provide global coverage in 1 day (Ocean and Land Colour Imagery, OLCI, and Sea and Land Surface Temperature Radiometer, SLSTR) and in 5 days (Micro-Wave Radiometer, MWR, and SAR Altimeter, SRAL).


  • DIAS to become operational. By second quarter of 2018, five DIAS services will become available to users. Four consortia were chosen to set up DIAS computing environment under ESA management and one DIAS will be implemented by EUMETSAT in cooperation with ECMWF and Mercator Ocean.


  • Copernicus Training and Information Sessions (InfoSessions). In 2018, a total of 11 InfoSessions are planned in 11 different Copernicus Participating countries (Austria, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Norway, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain). 


  • Anniversary of the Baveno Manifesto, the document that twenty years ago gave birth to the Copernicus programme (known as GMES at the time). The Baveno Manifesto was a declaration signed by several European Space agencies in Baveno, Italy in 1998, calling for a long-term commitment to the development of Space-based environmental monitoring services. It will be an occasion to reflect on the road travelled so far and to look into the future!


  • Copernicus Space Component evolution - six high-priority candidate missions have been identified by ESA in order to fill observation gaps. They leverage on ESA’s requirements activities as well as the User Requirements study led by the European Commission: a mission to monitor CO2 emissions generated by human activities; a mission to monitor Land Surface Temperature with high spatial resolution; a mission to monitor the Polar regions and their topographic evolution; an imaging mission using microwave radiometry for polar and ocean observations; an imaging mission with a very high number of spectral bands (Hyperspectral) which could support agricultural, marine and raw materials applications; an active Radar mission operating in L-band for agriculture, forestry and emergency management.


We are now starting to look into the financial feasibility of these proposed missions while preliminary design studies led by ESA are due to start.


  • The first CEOS meeting will be organised under the chairmanship of the European Commission.


  • Upcoming discussions with Member States, the EU Council and the European Parliament to ensure that the Copernicus programme will receive appropriate funding in the next Multiannual Financial Framework (2021-2015) and to secure the future of Copernicus 2.0.


Looking at all these future milestones, we can foresee an exciting and busy 2018 for the Copernicus programme. Rest assured that I will work with my staff to ensure that the full potential and benefits of Copernicus, the world’s most ambitious Earth Observation programme, are reaped and delivered.

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