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Space Sentinels: new ‘tools’ in space to improve European environment and security policies

ESA Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain and European Commission Director General for Enterprise & Industry Heinz Zourek today signed in Brussels an agreement which establishes the allocation of an EC budget of €624 million to ESA as a contribution to the implementation of the GMES Space Component (GSC).

This will be provided in two stages: €419 million for Segment 1 and €205 million for Segment 2 of the GSC programme. Segment 2 will be submitted for subscription by ESA’s Member States at next November’s ministerial-level Council meeting.

"This marks a further step in the growing partnership process that sees ESA and the EC develop joint programmes for the benefit of all citizens in Europe. Within the framework agreement that links the European Community and ESA, and in accordance with the European Space Policy adopted in May 2007, ESA will develop and deliver the space infrastructure (the Sentinels) which will respond to the requirements defined by the EC concerning the GMES services dedicated to environment and security, two of the main concerns of our fellow citizens", said Jean-Jacques Dordain. It is worth recalling that ESA Member States have already raised (in two phases: 2005 and 2007) €758 million for Segment 1.

This agreement, together with the financial contributions from ESA Member States, will enable ESA to develop and launch the first three Sentinel satellites (Sentinel-1, -2 and -3), to set up the related ground segment for the reception, processing and dissemination to users of the satellite data (from the Sentinels and other satellites) and to undertake the development of further elements to come.

Policies addressing environment and security are currently high up on the European agenda. Users and decision-makers need operational information services to effectively manage our planet’s environment, understand and mitigate the effects of climate change and ensure civil security for Europe’s citizens.

GMES will provide accurate, up-to-date and globally-available information on an operational basis to European, national, regional and local entities, enabling them to develop services and applications related to land, sea/ocean and atmospheric monitoring as well as to emergency response and security.

Commission Vice-President Günter Verheugen, responsible for Enterprise and Industry, commented: "Improved GMES capabilities are of paramount importance for our environment and security policies. I welcome today’s agreement, because citizens have a right to live safely and to have reliable information on the environment. Moreover, the agreement opens up enormous opportunities for our industry, including SMEs."

Global Monitoring for Environment and Security is a European Union-led initiative organised in partnership with the European Space Agency to combine ground and space-based observations to develop an integrated environmental monitoring capability. The progressive implementation of GMES is made possible by the activities and investments of EU and ESA Member States. This is the second flagship initiative of the European Space Policy, following in the footsteps of the navigation system Galileo.

Based on the European Space Policy, for GMES in particular, the EU is taking the lead in identifying and bringing together user needs and in aggregating the political will in support of wider policy objectives. It will ensure the availability and continuity of operational services supporting its policies. It is contributing to the development, deployment and operation of corresponding European space infrastructure, making maximum use of existing and planned assets available to Europe, including those of EUMETSAT.

ESA’s role here is to implement the dedicated GMES Space Component, which involves developing the Sentinel satellite series and its ground segment, coordinating data access to the Sentinels and to other missions mainly from ESA Member States that contribute to fulfilling GMES service requirements.

Sentinel-1 is an all-weather, day-and-night radar imaging satellite mission for land and ocean services; Sentinel-2 is a high-resolution optical imaging mission for land services; Sentinel-3 is for a global ocean and land monitoring mission which includes an altimetry instrument package.

Josef Aschbacher | alfa
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