The Commission signs a new contract with Arianespace for Copernicus satellite launch services to strengthen its autonomous and reliable access to space


Yesterday, the EU took another important step towards delivering on the goals of the EU Space Programme 2021-2027 by signing a new contract for Copernicus Sentinel satellite launch services with the company Arianespace. Between 2023 and 2026, Arianespace will perform six Vega-C launches for Copernicus, the European Union’s Earth Observation Programme. The signing of the contract marks a milestone in the ongoing work of the EU to become an anchor customer for the procurement of EU launch services, to strengthen its technological sovereignty and to ensure its autonomous, reliable and cost-effective access to space.

Earth Observation services and data provided by Copernicus are essential in the daily lives of European citizens. The EU has already in place a constellation of seven operational Copernicus Sentinel satellites (Sentinel-1A, Sentinel-2A and 2B, Sentinel-3A and 3B, Sentinel 5P, Sentinel-6A). These satellites contribute to the provision of valuable data and services for a wide array of daily applications from agriculture and crisis response to the fight against climate change, to name a few.

The contract with Arianespace will cover launch service needs with Vega-C for the next five years. It will ensure that the Copernicus constellation is replenished (Sentinel-1C, Sentinel-1D, Sentinel-2C, Sentinel-3C) and that new observation capacities are put into orbit (Sentinel CO2M satellites A and B). All launches are scheduled to take place from the Kourou Spaceport in French Guiana.

This Contract with Arianespace does not include launch services for future Galileo satellites, for which negotiations are ongoing.

In parallel, the Commission will intensify its efforts to accelerate the availability of new launcher systems in the EU to increase competitiveness, flexibility and responsiveness, in particular through the “Flight Ticket Initiative” to be operational in 2023. The EU will act as anchor customer for the procurement of launch services for its institutional needs, notably its In-Orbit-Demonstration and Validation Programme.

For More Information

Vega-C: Vega-C is an upgraded and more powerful version of the Vega launch vehicle (Sentinel-2A and Sentinel-2B were launched with Vega on 22 June 2015 and on 7 March 2017 respectively).Vega-C is a single body rocket, 35 meters high, with a mass at lift-off of 210 tonnes. It is able to place up to 2300 kilograms in a reference of 700 kilometres polar orbit. The European Space Agency owns the Vega programme, working with Avio as prime contractor and design authority. Arianespace is responsible for the commercial exploitation.

The EU’s constellation of seven operational Copernicus Sentinel satellites is made of Sentinel-1A, Sentinel-2A and 2B, Sentinel-3A and 3B, Sentinel 5P, and Sentinel-6A:

Copernicus Sentinel-1: Sentinel-1 provides all-weather, day and night radar imagery for land and ocean services for sea-ice monitoring, marine environment surveillance, ship detection, land-surface motion risks, mapping of forest, water and soils, humanitarian aid and crisis management.

Copernicus Sentinel-2: Sentinel-2 provides high-resolution optical imagery for land services. It provides for example, imagery of vegetation, soil and water cover, inland waterways and coastal areas. Sentinel-2 also delivers information for emergency services.

Copernicus Sentinel-3: Sentinel-3 provides high-accuracy optical, radar and altimetry data for marine and land services. It measures variables such as sea-surface topography, sea- and land-surface temperature, ocean colour and land colour with high-end accuracy and reliability.

Copernicus Sentinel-5P: Sentinel-5 Precursor is a satellite mission launched in 2017 providing atmospheric monitoring data until Sentinel-4 and Sentinel-5, the Copernicus atmospheric missions under development, are launched and become operational.

Copernicus Sentinel-6: Sentinel-6 provides high-accuracy altimetry for measuring global sea-surface height, primarily for operational oceanography and for climate studies. It is a cooperative mission developed in partnership with the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

Copernicus Sentinel CO2M (Copernicus Anthropogenic Carbon Dioxide Monitoring): This mission will carry a near-infrared and shortwave-infrared spectrometer to measure atmospheric carbon dioxide produced by human activity, providing a unique and independent source of information, to assess the effectiveness of policy measures, and to track their impact towards decarbonising Europe and meeting national emission reduction targets. The measurements from the mission will contribute to reducing current uncertainties in estimates of emissions of carbon dioxide from the combustion of fossil fuel at national and regional scales. The A and B units are planned to be launched in 2025-2026.

Further Copernicus Sentinel missions are under development, as part of the Sentinel expansion family of missions.