Copernicus is a joint initiative of the European Union (EU), the European Space Agency (ESA), the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT), and their member states. Based on existing and emerging earth observation technologies, its purpose is to establish operational geoinformation services for monitoring the environment and for civil security. These services are tailored to meet the requirements of users and focus on the fields of environment, climate protection, sustainable development, humanitarian aid, and security issues.
Copernicus has four interlinked components:
Supported by national and international initiatives, ground segment components are also provided (“collaborative ground segment”) to give direct and customized access to data from the Sentinel satellites. In addition to the core geoinformation services specified by the European Commission, Sentinel data can be used by science and business, and new services can be developed and marketed (“Downstream Services”).
Participation of the Earth Observation Center (EOC) in Copernicus
The Earth Observation Center EOC is crucially involved in defining, establishing and operating all the Copernicus components. It contributes to Copernicus its expertise and systems at national and European levels relating to ground segments, information technology and geoinformation applications.
Satellite-supported Earth Observation Systems
Copernicus will operate five series of Sentinel missions:
The Sentinel missions concept envisions continuous and uninterrupted operation of a constellation of two satellites in each series (a, b, c, d). This assures data continuity and better coverage with earth observation data far into the next few decades.
In addition to the dedicated Copernicus satellite fleet (Sentinels), national earth observation systems will augment Europe‘s earth observation capabilities. The processing, data management, archiving and access systems developed and operated at EOC for national missions assure that data from TerraSAR-X, TanDEM-X, EnMAP, as well as Indian and US satellite data received in Germany (In partnership with EuroMap and EUSI), are also available for Copernicus services. Toward this end, DFD supports the InfoTerra, EuroMap and EUSI companies in supplying the data through electronic interfaces developed together with ESA (HMA; Heterogenous Mission Accessibility“). These data are made available through ESA for Copernicus services and other users via Portals.
Ground-based and Aerial Observation Systems
With its aerial measurement campaigns, EOC gives international partners, and thus also the Copernicus programme, possibilities to validate and calibrate satellite sensors and geoinformation products.
The environmental research station (UFS) on the Zugspitze mountain, which is part of an international network of atmosphere measurement stations, and the DEMMIN calibration field in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania constitute an EOC contribution to the Copernicus ground-based measurement network.
Ground Segment, Information and Data Management
Antenna systems for satellite data reception, processors to generate products and information from these data, as well as archiving and data management systems are components of a ground segment developed at EOC and operated as “Processing and Archiving Centers” (PAC). EOC has operated such PACs not only for national earth observation missions, but also for ESA’s ERS and ENVISAT missions. On the basis of an ESA invitation to tender a bid to participate in establishing the Copernicus ground segment, EOC was selected to operate a PAC for global Sentinel-1 mission data and global Sentinel-3 Ocean Land Colour Instrument (OLCI) mission data. In addition, ESA put EOC in charge of establishing the entire payload ground segment for the Sentinel-5 Precursor mission.
EOC facilities are accordingly a significant component of Copernicus’ operational ground segment.
In addition to the core ground segment, countries participating in the Copernicus programmme can also receive data from the Sentinel satellites using their national ground stations. These data, as well as the data in the PAC archives, can then be used for regional, national, scientific, official and commercial applications. This ground segment augmenting the core ground segment is designated a “collaborative ground segment”.
In the context of this collaborative ground segment, DFD plans to employ its national receiving station in Neustrelitz and its international ground stations near the geographic poles (O’Higgins in the Antactic and Inuvik in northern Canada) to receive and use Sentinel satellite data in partnership with the countries hosting these stations. The technical challenge associated with direct reception of Sentinel satellite data is linked to the requirement for near-real-time services, such as for maritime security.
Through its two institutes, the German Remote Sensing Data Center (DFD) and the Remote Sensing Technology Institute (IMF), the Earth Observation Center (EOC) was and is significantly involved in almost all of ESA’s Copernicus service elements. EOC also contributed to the precursor and demonstration services in the context of the European Commission’s Seventh Framework Programme, supplemented by EOC participation in national research and demonstration projects relating to Copernicus.
On the basis of these projects and in consultation with European users, six core Copernicus services have been identified:
Of this broad range of geoinformation services, the four areas of “emergency mapping”, “civil security”, “land monitoring” and “atmosphere” are at the center of EOC interest. In these areas, EOC engaged / engages in the relevant consortia of the Seventh Framework Program, respectively in Horizon2020, in some cases playing a leading role.
In the current initial phase of Copernicus core services, EOC particularly contributes to industrial consortia its expertise in the geometric processing and validation of optical data relating to the land services and in mapping solar irradiance and establishing user interfaces for the planned atmosphere services.