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A Driving Force for Copernicus

A Driving Force for Copernicus
A Global Monitoring Programme

Copernicus comprises an ‘in-situ’ measurement component and a ‘services’ component addressing six specific topics: oceans, atmosphere, climate change, land, security and emergency management.

Real-time data collectionfor a Powerful Tool
7 satellites built by Airbusto monitor Earth climate related activities
Unprecendeted resolutionof 7x7km² at nadir for Sentinel-5
Only 5 daysto cover the entire Earth land surface
All starts with Sentinels

Airbus Defence and Space plays a crucial role in constructing the Sentinel satellites and their instruments:

- developing and building the radar instrument for Sentinel 1

- prime contractor for Sentinel 2 and a spectral mode observations instrument

- designing and building the microwave radiometer (MWR) on board Sentinel 3

- designing and building the satellite and instrument for Sentinel 5 Precursor (5P)

- prime contractor for the two spectrometers on Sentinel 4

- prime contractor for the Sentinel 5 imaging spectrometer

- prime contractor for Jason-CS/ Sentinel-6

More about Sentinels


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.

The first satellite, Sentinel-1A, was successfully launched in April 2014, to be followed in 2016 by the second satellite, Sentinel-1B.


Airbus Defence and Space is prime contractor for this 2 satellites mission.

The extracted 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 and as well as for coastal monitoring


Sentinel-3 is dedicated to oceanography and the monitoring of vegetation.

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.

Sentinel-5 Precursor

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 2021.


Airbus Defence and Space is the prime contractor for the development and construction of the two spectrometers for the Sentinel-4 mission.

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.


The high-precision Sentinel-5 instrument will be developed and constructed by the prime contractor Airbus Defence and Space.

The instrument will monitor the composition of the Earth’s atmosphere globally on a daily basis by taking measurements of trace gases and aerosols that have an impact on the climate and air quality. Sentinel-5 will be installed on a MetOP Second Generation (MetOP-SG) satellite and fly in a roughly 800 kilometre polar orbit around the Earth.


Jason-CS/Sentinel-6 for which Airbus Defence and Space is prime contractor to ESA, is a mission to carry out high-precision measurements of ocean surface topography.

The satellite will measure its distance to the ocean surface with an accuracy of a few centimetres and use this data to map the topography globally, repeating the cycle every ten days. The measurements made are vital for modelling the oceans and predicting rises in sea levels.

Go further

The Sentinel satellites benefit from the SpaceDataHighway services provided by Airbus Defence and Space. The Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-2 satellites are equipped with laser communication terminals that will significantly accelerate the delivery of time-critical data and large volumes of data to Earth monitoring centres.