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COSMIC-1 mission for GPS reflectometry comes to an end

Image: NOAA

Image: NOAA

The COSMIC-1 program ended on May 1, when the last of six tiny satellites were decommissioned. The satellites were launched 14 years ago, and outlived their planned lifespan by 12 years.

COSMIC — the Constellation Observing System for Meteorology, Ionosphere  and Climate (COSMIC) mission — uses GPS signals to provide a wealth of accurate atmospheric data and improve weather forecasts, according to Laura Snider, University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), which ran the COSMIC program.

Meanwhile, the COSMIC-2 program (FORMOSAT-7 in Taiwan) continues. Its six satellites were launched on June 25, 2019, into low-inclination orbits. The mission was launched by NOAA as the agency’s first operational GNSS radio occultation mission.

COSMIC-1 demonstrated the value of GNSS radio occultation (GNSS-RO) to derive vertical atmospheric profiles of temperature, humidity and pressure by measuring the degree to which GPS signals bend as they travel through Earth’s atmosphere.

Weather centers used the high-quality, accurate data to improve forecasts; the data was also used by researchers.

“Throughout its lifetime, COSMIC-1 made an astounding 7 million vertical atmospheric profiles available to the operational forecast centers and research community,” writes Snider. “These data demonstrably boosted forecast accuracy and were referenced in more than 550 peer-reviewed scientific publications. In all, more than 5,000 users from over 100 countries have accessed COSMIC data.

COSMIC-1 was primarily funded by the National Space Organization in Taiwan, where the mission is called FORMOSAT-3. The leading U.S. sponsor on the project was the National Science Foundation. Other U.S. partners included NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Air Force and the Office of Naval Research.

UCAR also led the GPS/MET GPS radio occultation mission in the mid-1990s.

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