Europe’s GMES/Kopernikus: Dual-Use Eyes in Space
Over at C4ISR Journal, “Europe’s declaration of independence” covers a EUR 2.3 billion (about $3.6 billion) Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) satellite constellation. EADS-Astrium will build the satellites, which fit into the growing trend toward “civil” satellites whose fine resolution and advanced sensors give them dual-use potential. Euroconsult in Paris predicts that the next 10 years will see almost 200 Earth observation satellites placed in orbit, some of which will have dual-use capability.
The EU is not alone in believing that environmental changes could become a significant driver of interstate conflict in a crowded world, and responses to natural disasters often require quick imagery in order to assess and plan a response. In addition to that kind of environmental monitoring, GMES will also serve as an independent check on other countries’ satellite data concerning weapons of mass destruction, genocide, et. al. This is not a formal requirement, but several European defense ministers have already expressed interest.
The GMES project was recently renamed Kopernikus, and given the tag line “observing our planet for a safer world.” By 2011, Sentinel-1 is expected to be a cloud-piercing radar satellite delivering 5 meter data blocks of imagery. By 2012, the Sentinel-2 mapping satellite would be added, with a number of sensors to measure environmental trends in key areas. Sentinel-3 will add a radar altimeter. See also: GMES official site | European Union Satellite Centre GMES page | ESA’s GMES page.