Portugal Space joins the
Copernicus Relay network

Copernicus, the European Union Earth Observation Programme,
is one of the most advanced and complete remote sensing systems worldwide.

Copernicus, the European Union Earth Observation Programme, is one of the most advanced and complete remote sensing systems worldwide. The programme comprises a series of Sentinel satellites (eight currently in orbit and many more under development), other contributing missions and sources of data that altogether compose a wide and broad set of geospatial information and services. 

Earth Observation data has many fields of application ranging from monitoring of crop growth and health, assessing key physical parameters of our oceans, detecting if there are ground movements in our infrastructure or monitoring the air quality in our cities. These applications benefit many different stakeholders ranging from Policy Makers, Public Administration or Private Companies that can use these data for better informed decision and optimized processes. Copernicus, by adopting a full, free and open data policy has also become the backbone of a thriving downstream ecosystem where space start-ups flourish.

In order to foster the user uptake, dissemination and training of Copernicus, the European Commission created two fundamental and international networks, the Copernicus Relays and the Copernicus Academy. The Copernicus Relays are the voice, the eyes and the ears of Copernicus at a local and regional level, coordinating dissemination activities and acting as an information point as well as gathering user needs. These are complemented by the Copernicus Academy which connect research centres, academia, local authorities and service providers facilitating collaborative research, carrying out educational and training activities to capacitate the next generation of researchers, scientist and entrepreneurs. Between both networks they comprise over 250 organizations across Europe.

In Portugal these networks were composed by two Copernicus Relays: Agroinsider in Évora and RAEGE association in Azores, and four Copernicus Academy: LNEG in Lisbon, SpaceLayer in Coimbra, University of Azores and University of Évora (Figure 1) which have been developing many essential activities in the last years and are reference entities in Earth Observation.

The Copernicus Relays network has gained a new member in 2021, Portugal Space. The Portuguese Space Agency represents Portugal at a European level at the Copernicus Committee, the Copernicus User Forum as well as Horizon Europe – Space, being also one of the national partners (with DGT and the AIR Centre) implementing the Framework Partnership Agreement for Copernicus User Uptake – FPCUP. 

The Agency will act as Copernicus Relay coordinating the activities of the two networks together with all the initiatives that are organized at a regional, national and international level with the mission to bring space in general, and Copernicus in particular, closer to the Portuguese society and its citizens. 

In the years to come Portugal Space will foster the extension of the Copernicus Relay and Academy networks in order to broaden both their thematic and their geographic coverage leveraging on the knowledge, competences and initiative of many institutions bringing space closer to everyone. 

Figure 1. Copernicus Relays and Academy in Portugal.

Joan Alabart
14 of April, 2021
About the author

Joan Alabart is a Spanish MSc Civil Engineering from Universitat Politécnica de Catalunya who spent one year at TU Delft in an exchange program. He has over five years of experience in project engineering and project management in large international engineering projects (rail, road, maritime) combined with a life-long passion for space. This enthusiasm for the ultimate frontier together with his attachment to Portugal has brought him to Lisbon where he currently works as the Industrial Relations and Projects Officer at the Portuguese Space Agency with the focus on non-space applications. When not talking about the wonders that space brings to us, you might find him riding a flashy orange bike along the Tejo.