Paris: The European Commission has finally agreed to permit free access to data from its Sentinel series of Earth observation satellites. This aligns the European Commission with a policy already adopted by the European Space Agency (ESA).
After a long process of evaluation that included input from the European Association of Remote Sensing Companies (EARSC), an association of private-sector providers of Earth observation data, the commission has concluded that any harm to private-sector satellite operators will be outweighed by the expected growth in value-added services derived from the data. ESA and the commission have spent 3.2 billion euros ($4.2 billion) on an elaborate space-based Earth observation network including the fleet of Sentinel optical and radar spacecraft. The system used to be called Global Monitoring for Environment and Security, or GMES. It is now called Copernicus and its ownership is gradually transferring from ESA to the European Commission. The commission, after initially seeking to expel Copernicus from its next seven-year budget, has bowed to demands from the European Parliament, ESA and individual European governments and agreed to spend a further 3.8 billion euros on Copernicus between 2014 and 2020.