The Copernican revolution

The Copernican revolution

Previously known as GMES (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security) Copernicus is the new European Earth observation and monitoring satellite program, the most ambitious project ever realised in this field to date, to provide accurate, prompt and easily accessible information to improve our management of the environment, understand and mitigate the effects of climate change and ensure human safety.


The enormous potential and the multiple fields of application of Copernicus were the focus of the recent international conference “Copernicus for environment and human security – from research to operations”, organised as part of the six month Italian Presidency of the European Commission. Held at the Rome headquarters of the Italian Space Agency (ASI), the conference was attended by all the top European Space agencies and the Minister for Education, Universities and Research, Stefania Giannini.


The conference highlighted the implications that Copernicus could have in many different aspects of our lives, from safeguarding the environment to safeguarding the cultural heritage, agriculture, research, border control and maritime surveillance, key themes for Europe and in particular for its Mediterranean member States.


The event was also a great occasion for promoting the role of space not only as a strategic priority sector for the European Union, but also as a decisive factor for the economy of the Old Continent.


Copernicus is managed by the European Commission in collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Environment Agency (EEA). All of the satellites operating under the Copernicus project: COSMO-SkyMed, Radarsat, GeoEye, Digital Globe, Spot and the ESA Sentinels, are going to be used for planet monitoring operations.


Finmeccanica plays a leading role in the program through its subsidiaries Telespazio,Thales Alenia Space and Selex ES and has been a fundamental partner in developing both the systems and the program’s various satellite applications.


Telespazio in particular (Finmeccanica 67% , Thales 33%) contributes to developing the ground-based segment and operations, providing Copernicus with data from COSMO-SkyMed and DigitalGlobe and providing geospatial territorial monitoring services for emergency interventions and maritime safety. Through its subsidiary e-GEOS (Telespazio 80%,ASI 20%), a company operating in the Earth observation services sector, it provides satellite data and maps for crisis management. Since 2012 the e-GEOS Space Centre at Matera has been one of the four stations forming the Core Ground Segment of Copernicus, receiving radar data from the Sentinel 1 satellite, and in future will be receiving optical data from Sentinel 2 as well. e-GEOS will be providing the European Commission with geospatial information and satellite maps of areas struck by disaster, and assuring prompt access to all the data needed by the competent Authorities of the EU and by International Humanitarian Organisations to manage increasingly frequent catastrophic events.


Finmeccanica also contributes significantly to the realisation of the five Sentinel satellite missions the ESA is currently developing for the operative requirements of the Copernicus program. These will be literal “Sentinels” providing radar imaging and high resolution optical images of our planet, and will permit the creation of a real orbiting environmental monitoring network. Telespazio is part of the consortium of European industry supplying the Payload Ground Segment (PDGS) of Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-3 through its subsidiary Telespazio VEGA Deutschland, and is responsible for the design, development, integration and validation of the entire segment, as well as for operations at the data processing and filing Centre for both missions. Telespazio is also involved in developing the Mission Control System for Sentinel-1, Sentinel-2, Sentinel-3 and Sentinel-5 Precursor, and will be providing operational support to the Control Centre during the pre- and post-satellite launch phases.


Thales Alenia Space (Thales 67%, Finmeccanica 33%) as prime contractor, is responsible for the design, development, integration and testing of the constellations for the Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-3 missions. Satellite Sentinel-1A, launched on the 3rd of April last from the Kourou space centre in French Guyana and that is already relaying data to Earth, was built at the Satellite Integration Centre in Rome along with other fundamental technological assemblies like the T/R modules and the Front End Electronics for the Band C synthetic aperture radar, in addition to the advanced management and transmission subsystems. In the Thales Alenia Space clean rooms, works are currently in progress on integrating the Sentinel 1B satellite, forecast for launch in late 2015. For the Sentinel 3 mission, Thales Alenia Space is head of a European consortium with important French, Italian, German and Spanish partners, and is also responsible for developing the platform and two of its principal instruments: the Ocean and Land Color Instrument for monitoring the condition of the ocean and coastlines, and the Radar Altimeter for measuring the topography of the ocean surface.


Selex ES is playing an active role in the programme with the supply for Sentinel 1A of A-STR attitude sensors and CAPS (C-band Synthetic Aperture Radar) and TPSU (Tile Power Supply Unit) power equipments. The company is also Prime Contractor to provide the SLSTR (Sea and Land Surface temperature Radiometer) instrument now being prepared for the Sentinel 3A satellite that will provide global and regional sea and land surface temperature to a very high level of accuracy.


Roma 26/09/2014