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Defence Industry and Space
Copernicus Programme
Copernicus, Europe's Eyes on Earth

Copernicus at a glance

What is Earth Observation?

Earth Observation (EO) refers to the use of remote sensing technologies to monitor land, marine (seas, rivers, lakes) and atmosphere. Satellite-based EO relies on the use of satellite-mounted payloads to gather imaging data about the Earth’s characteristics. The images are then processed and analysed in order to extract different types of information that can serve a very wide range of applications and industries.

What is the role of Copernicus?

Copernicus is the Earth observation component of the European Union’s Space programme, looking at our planet and its environment to benefit all European citizens. It offers information services that draw from satellite Earth Observation and in-situ (non-space) data.
Copernicus is served by a set of dedicated satellites (the Sentinel families) and contributing missions (existing commercial and public satellites). The Sentinel satellites are specifically designed to meet the needs of the Copernicus services and their users. Since the launch of Sentinel-1A in 2014, the European Union set in motion a process to place a constellation of almost 20 more satellites in orbit before 2030.
Copernicus also collects information from in situ systems such as ground stations, which deliver data acquired by a multitude of sensors on the ground, at sea or in the air.

What services does Copernicus provide?

The provision of Copernicus services is based on the processing of environmental data collected from Earth observation satellites and in situ sensors. The Earth observation satellites which provide the data exploited by the Copernicus services are split into two groups of missions:
The Sentinels, which are developed for the specific needs of the Copernicus programme. Sentinel-1, -2, -3 and -6 are dedicated satellites, while Sentinel-4 and -5 are instruments onboard EUMETSAT’s weather satellites.
The Contributing Missions, which are operated by National, European or International organisations and already provide a wealth of data for Copernicus services.
The Copernicus services transform this wealth of satellite and in situ data into value-added information by processing and analysing the data.
These value-adding activities are streamlined through six thematic streams of Copernicus services:
The Copernicus services transform this wealth of satellite and in situ data into value-added information by processing and analysing the data. Datasets stretching back for years and decades are made comparable and searchable, thus ensuring the monitoring of changes; patterns are examined and used to create better forecasts, for example, of the ocean and the atmosphere. Maps are created from imagery, features and anomalies are identified and statistical information is extracted.
These value-adding activities are streamlined through six thematic streams of Copernicus services:

Use cases

The information provided by the Copernicus services can be used by end users for a wide range of applications in a variety of areas. These include urban area management, sustainable development and nature protection, regional and local planning, agriculture, forestry and fisheries, health, civil protection, infrastructure, transport and mobility, as well as tourism. 
The main users of Copernicus services are policymakers and public authorities who need the information to develop environmental legislation and policies or to take critical decisions in the event of an emergency, such as a natural disaster or a humanitarian crisis.
Based on the Copernicus services and on the data collected through the Sentinels and the contributing missions, many value-added services can be tailored to specific public or commercial needs, resulting in new business opportunities.


Agriculture is one of the most promising applications in terms of the impact of Copernicus, especially in precision farming. Copernicus helps assess agricultural land use and trends, crop conditions and yield forecasts. It also supports input management, farm management recording and irrigation management. Together with Galileo and EGNOS, Copernicus is an essential technology for precision farming.

Blue Economy

Thanks to its capacity to monitor the physical and biogeochemical characteristics of the global ocean and regional seas, Copernicus supports a wide variety of Blue Economy applications such as the assessment of water quality, the mapping of fishing zones or the monitoring of harmful algal blooms.

Climate Change and Environment

By providing key indicators on climate change drivers such as carbon dioxide levels and assessing its impacts on the environment such as melting of glaciers and sea ice and sea level rise, Copernicus supports Europe’s climate change adaptation and mitigation policies in several sectors.

Insurance and Disaster Management

Copernicus supports public authorities in all phases of disaster management, from preparedness, prevention and disaster response, where it supports civil protection operations with products such as disaster maps for example, to the recovery phase, where it helps to monitor the medium- and long-term impacts on the environment, human safety and the economy.


Copernicus provides numerous solutions to transport and transport safety issues, such as information on currents to support ship routing services and on environmental hazards, such as volcanic eruptions or the presence of sea ice, which can disrupt aviation and marine transport. Completed by the European positioning systems, Galileo and EGNOS, Copernicus is allowing the development of transport applications.

Urban Planning

Copernicus helps Europe’s municipalities and regions face diverse planning challenges, such waste management and exploitation of renewables energies, by providing information on land use and land cover classification, urban growth, urban green areas, urban heat islands and more.

What does the future hold for Copernicus?

In January 2024, the European Commission signed a contract with EU Space Industry experts to conduct a study aimed at developing reconnaissance capabilities at a European level. The study will examine the technological and programmatic framework for the development of a new European Earth-Observation Service (EOGS) for government-authorised users.
The next six Copernicus Sentinels: Sentinel-1C, Sentinel-1D, Sentinel-2C, Sentinel-3C, and the Copernicus Anthropogenic Carbon Dioxide-A and -B satellites will be launched on Vega-C rockets from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana and are scheduled to take place between 2024 and 2026.

Exploring Copernicus potential to the fullest 

The Copernicus Data Space Ecosystem, is an open ecosystem that provides free instant access to a wide range of data and services from the Copernicus Sentinel missions and more on our planet’s land, oceans and atmosphere.

Access the Copernicus Data Space Ecosystem

Useful Resources