Airbus Defence and Space

The European ‘Copernicus’ programme explained by Michael Menking and Eckard Settelmeyer

Michael Menking - European Director for Earth Observation, Navigation and Science Eckard Settelmeyer - Director for Earth Observation, Navigation and Science Germany



  • What is Copernicus? And what is the part of the Sentinel-Satellites?

Michael  Menking
The European ‘Copernicus’ programme (formerly known as ‘GMES’ – Global Monitoring for Environment and Security) is creating a modern, capable infrastructure for Earth observation and geo-information services.  The programme is run by the European Commission (EC) together with the European Space Agency (ESA) and other agencies are involved in lower roles.

Copernicus is designed to provide data collection in six key areas: land monitoring; marine environment monitoring; disaster and crisis management; monitoring the Earth’s atmosphere; climate change monitoring; and security. The comprehensive, standardized and global-scale data basis required for global environmental monitoring is inconceivable without satellite systems. The aim of creating independent access to global Earth observation data characterizes the extraordinary significance of the Copernicus programme’s satellite-based Earth observation.


  • What significance has the Copernicus project for Airbus Defence and Space?

Eckard Settelmeyer
Airbus Defence and Space has been a key partner in Copernicus since the very beginning of the programme in 1998. Below are Airbus Defence and Space’s three main contributions:

Airbus Defence and Space is playing a major part in the construction of the Sentinel satellites that form the Space Segment of the programme and will complement the data from the Copernicus Contributing Missions.

Airbus Defence and Space operates a fleet of optical and radar satellites – SPOT, PLEIADES, TerraSAR-X and TanDEM-X – and is one of the leading data suppliers for the Copernicus services through these contributing missions.

Airbus Defence and Space will operate the European Data Relay System, that will provide secure and fast communication services for the Sentinel 1 and Sentinel 2 satellites, and is delivering key ground stations for the Sentinel-1 mission.



  • How is the cooperation with ESA?

Michael  Menking
Airbus Defence and Space has a long history to work with ESA. The Copernicus Program is on this behalf an excellent one.


  • How is the general position of the European Union in Brussels towards space research? What will be the benefit of Copernicus for the European Union?

Eckard Settelmeyer
EU is involved in Space Research through the Framework Programme, and tomorrow with H 2020.

Copernicus value added services have been fostered thru FP5, 6 and 7 studies that have demonstrated the feasibility of such services within COPERNICUS. Recent examples are SAGRES and LOBOS aiming at developing monitoring services for EU external border surveillance within the frame of the FRONTEX/EUROSUR programs. Airbus Defence and Space is involved in these projects


  • How is Airbus Defence and Space involved in the work of the European Union concerning Copernicus?

Michael  Menking

Airbus Defence and Space is involved in all Sentinels models A&B.


Sentinel 1 : Radar imaging, all weather, day and night, and interferometry. Airbus Defence and Space in in charge of the Radar.


Sentinel 2: Multispectral optical imaging, for land applications, urban planning, forest monitoring, agriculture for Sentinel-2. Airbus Defence and Space is the Prime


Sentinel 3 : Medium resolution optical imaging and radar altimetry, for ocean and global monitoring. Airbus Defence and Space is supplying the Radiometer Instrument


Sentinel 4 is an instrument on board MTG for atmospheric chemistry from geostationary orbit.:  Airbus Defence and Space is supplying the payload


Atmospheric chemistry from low earth orbit, Sentinel-5 Precursor is a dedicated spacecraft paving the way the arrival of the Sentinel-5 instruments on board Metop Second Generation satellites. Airbus Defence and Space is Prime of S 5p and the manufacturers of payloads for Metop SG


  • What will be the civil benefit of Copernicus?

Eckard Settelmeyer
Copernicus will help to create new business sectors through value added services, it helps to minimise the impacts of crisis and disaster…


  • How much are the expected costs of the Sentinel-Satellites? Who shares the expenses?

Michael  Menking
Expenses are today shared between ESA and the EU: Typically ESA has financed the development of the 5 Sentinel models including a PFM and the FM called A & B. EU will financed models C&D. ESA will finance the development of future generation.

Finally EUMETSAT is also contributing by Hosting the Sentinel 4 & 5 Instruments in its MTG’s and Metop SG spacecrafts


  • The Copernicus programme started with another name: GMES. How come, that the programme got a new name?

Eckard Settelmeyer
The name of the program changed, when the European Union decided to participate financially to the Space Segment. Moreover COPERNICUS is easier to be pronounced than GMES.


  • Will Copernicus have any influence on our daily live? How could we use the data?

Michael  Menking
We will benefit from timely information on environmental status, atmospheric conditions, water quality, Climate change (CO2 and other pollutants,… ),…


  • How can Copernicus support long term studies (e.g. concerning glacier melting, urban development, agricultural areas)?

Eckard Settelmeyer


This is the main objective of COPERNICUS. When in orbit, the sentinels will allow to capture data to monitor the health of the planet (glacier melting, coastal erosion, Ocean behavior (color, temperature, currents,…)..) but as well the status of the land (forest, desertification, agriculture, urban development,…).


It is also dealing with climate change, emergency situations (disaster monitoring) and Security (border surveillance,…).

Today the first models A & B of each sentinels are planned for launch. EU is funding the replacement (models C&D) that will be available at the end around 2020, ESA is planning also to develop the second generation of the Sentinels starting by 2017.


  • Where will the data of each Sentinel be collected?

Michael  Menking
Each Sentinel has its own Ground segment that will receive down link data from every sentinel. It includes as well  an archiving system and distribution (web based) to users.

Moreover the e-DRS (Data relay satellite) system co financed by Airbus Defence and Space will allows a continuous downlink of Sentinel 1 and 2 data through a geostationary data relay to the ground for the benefit of the users.


  • How long will we benefit from Copernicus? (10years? 50 years? 100 years?)

Eckard Settelmeyer
The current A & B models will last up to 8-10 years, and will be replaced by models C&D when available. This later would be acquired in 2014/2015 by ESA under delegation of EU.

Future Generation Sentinels would be studied 2017 onwards to insure service continuity and improvments.


  • What is the mission of Sentinel 1? Which instruments are on board? And in which sectors was Airbus Defence and Space involved/ responsible? When will be the launch of Sentinel 1? When will the data from Sentinel 1 be available?

Michael  Menking
The twin Sentinel-1 satellites are designed to provide radar-based Earth observation imagery and will supply data of significantly higher quality than its predecessor missions. Radar will enable continuous operation (round the clock). Sentinel-1 will be used for observing environmental events such as landslides and floods. It will also provide information and support to assistance, rescue and relief missions during disasters, where it is vital to have up-to-date data as quickly as possible. In addition, the data can also be used for evaluating longer-term processes. For example, observing melting ice masses in Greenland can supply important data upon which to base conclusions regarding the extent of rises in sea level.

The first satellite, Sentinel-1A, is scheduled for launch in April 2014, to be followed in 2016 by the second satellite, Sentinel-1B.

The C-band radar instrument for this mission, based on sophisticated synthetic aperture radar (SAR) technology including all electronic subsystems, has been developed and constructed by Airbus Defence and Space.  Friedrichshafen in Germany was the instrument prime contractor and built the radar antenna, and the radar electronics were developed in Portsmouth, UK.


  • What is the function of Sentinel 5? Please, tell us more about the instruments. Which is the part of Airbus Defence and Space?

Eckard Settelmeyer
Sentinel-5 is dedicated to monitoring the composition of the atmosphere for Copernicus Atmosphere Services and will be carried on the polar-orbiting MetOp Second Generation satellite.  The Sentinel-5 mission comprises several spectrometers that provide data in Ultraviolet, Visible, and Near-infrared bandwidths.


  • What is the difference between Sentinel 5 and Sentinel 5 Precursor? What is the mission of Sentinel 5 Precursor?

Michael  Menking

Sentinel-5 Precursor (Sentinel-5P) will be the first satellite dedicated to monitoring atmospheric chemistry for the Copernicus programme. Airbus Defence and Space is the prime contractor for the satellite. It will ensure there is continuity of data to monitor the ozone hole and tropospheric pollution as current climate monitoring missions come to the end of their lives. Sentinel-5P will fill the gap between current atmospheric capabilities from low polar orbit and the launch of Sentinel-5 which is envisaged for around 2020.


The satellite will carry the Tropospheric Ozone Monitoring Instrument, or TROPOMI, (primed by Airbus Defence and Space subsidiary DutchSpace, with inputs from Surrey Satellites). This advanced imaging absorption spectrometer will provide data on atmospheric trace gases and aerosols that affect air quality and climate. It measures ozone, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide and other atmospheric pollutants at a higher resolution than currently available.

Sentinel-5 will provide more advanced information with the same type of instrument that will be hosted within the MetOp Second Generation low earth orbiting satellites.


  • How will Sentinel 2 collect data? Which instruments are on board? And in which sectors was Airbus Defence and Space involved/ responsible?

Michael  Menking
Sentinel-2 also consists of two satellites. Airbus Defence and Space is prime contractor for this mission, which will supply optical images ranging from the near-visible to the shortwave infrared regions of the electromagnetic spectrum in a total of 13 spectral bands with resolutions of 10, 20 or 60 meters and a swath width of 290 km.

The data will be used primarily for monitoring natural disasters (floods, forest fires, landslides, erosion) and in the fields of land use, soil sealing, spatial planning, forestry management and humanitarian aid. Sentinel-2A is scheduled for launch in 2015, with Sentinel-2B to follow in 2016. Together, they will be capable of imaging the entire land surface of the planet in only five days.

Friedrichshafen in Germany is the prime contractor for Sentinel-2.


  • What will Sentinel 3 investigate? Which instruments are on board? And in which sectors was Airbus Defence and Space involved/ responsible? When will be the launch of Sentinel 3?

Michael  Menking


Sentinel-3 is dedicated to oceanography and the monitoring of vegetation. Its instruments will record parameters such as the topography of the oceans and seas, as well as the surface temperature and colour of the oceans, seas and landmasses, to a high degree of accuracy and reliability.


To perform these tasks, Sentinel-3 will be equipped with up to four instruments. Airbus Defence and Space has been selected to supply one of these instruments, called the Microwave Radiometer, to determine the amount of humidity contained in the path of the radar pulses, as well as a number of satellite subsystems for this mission.


Airbus Defence and Space has also delivered two Cryo Cooler systems for the Sea and Land Surface Temperature Radiometer (SLSTR) instrument.


  • How can we benefit from the Mission of Sentinel 4? Which instruments are on board? And in which sectors was Airbus Defence and Space involved/ responsible? When will be the launch of Sentinel 4?

Eckard Settelmeyer
Sentinel 4 is an instrument that will be flown on board the geostationary satellite Meteosat Third Generation.

The Sentinel-4 mission will concentrate on services such as analysing the chemical composition of the atmosphere and monitoring air quality. Its main task is to measure concentrations of aerosols, trace gases and cloud cover in the lower troposphere. Airbus Defence and Space is the prime contractor for the development and construction of the two spectrometers for the Sentinel-4 mission.

From geostationary orbit, the two spectrometers will make it possible for the first time to continuously monitor the composition of the atmosphere and air quality over Europe, North Africa and the Sahel region. The aim is to generate an hourly update of air quality data.


CopernicusSentinel satellites GMESEarth ObservationGeoinformation ServicesAirbus Defence and Space