NASA Technology Spawns Weather, Climate Satellite Constellation
A globe-spanning constellation of six weather and climate research satellites
based on a novel application of NASA-developed technology is set to launch
from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., Friday, April 14, at 5:10 p.m. PDT
aboard a Minotaur rocket.
The Constellation Observing System for Meteorology, Ionosphere and Climate
network, known as Cosmic in the United States and Formosat-3 in Taiwan, is
expected to improve weather forecasts, monitor climate change and enhance
space weather research.
Image right: Artist's concept of Constellation Observing System for Meteorology, Ionosphere and Climate. Image credit: University Corporation for Atmospheric Research + Browse version of image
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., designed Cosmic's primary
instrument, a science global positioning system receiver, based on its proven
BlackJack space receiver.
The five-year mission is a cooperative program between the American Institute
in Taiwan and the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the
United States. It is funded by that office?s designated representative, Taiwan's
National Space Organization, and various American Institute in Taiwan-designated
representatives, including the National Science Foundation, Arlington, Va., which
leads science activities. The University Corporation for Atmospheric Research,
Boulder, Colo., manages the mission and designed the satellite array system.
The low-orbiting satellites will be the first to provide atmospheric data daily
in real time over thousands of points on Earth. They will measure the bending of
radio signals from the U.S. global positioning system as the signals pass through
Earth's atmosphere, a technology known as radio occultation.
"Cosmic is a prime example of transitioning NASA remote sensing technology into
operational weather forecasting," said Tony Mannucci, supervisor of JPL's Ionospheric
and Atmospheric Remote Sensing Group. "The expected improvements in forecasting skill
and Cosmic's contribution to long-term climate monitoring are a direct result of NASA's
research investments in radio occultation, a technology originally developed by JPL
in the 1960s for planetary atmospheric studies and later refined in the 1990s
for Earth orbit use."
Temperature and water vapor profiles derived from the satellites will help meteorologists
observe, research and forecast hurricanes, typhoons and other storm patterns over the
oceans and improve many areas of weather prediction. The mission's stability, consistency
and accuracy should be a boon to scientists quantifying long-term climate change trends.
The satellites are also expected to improve analysis and forecasting of space weather
-- the geomagnetic storms that can interrupt sensitive satellite and communications
systems and affect power grids.
While several single-satellite systems have used global positioning system signals
experimentally over the past decade, Cosmic's satellite array is the first to provide
the high-density global coverage required for both research and operational forecasting.
Orbiting 800 kilometers (500 miles) above Earth, the satellites will take about 2,500
measurements a day in a nearly uniform global distribution, providing independent data
over vast ocean stretches where there are no weather balloons. Because its radio signals
pierce thick cloud cover and precipitation, weather conditions will not interfere with
data gathering. Mission data will be available to researchers and forecasters within a
few hours of the observations.
Other major American Institute in Taiwan-designated representatives in Cosmic include
the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Air Force Space Test Program
and U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center Rocket Systems Launch Program, and
the Office of Naval Research. The spacecraft was designed by Orbital Sciences Corporation.
Broad Reach Engineering built the satellite constellation receivers. The Naval Research
Laboratory designed and built the ionospheric sensors. The rest of the constellation
was built and tested in Taiwan.
For more information on Cosmic on the Internet, visit:
For more information on global positioning system occultation remote sensing, visit:
Other points of contact include: Anatta, University Corporation for Atmospheric Research,
Boulder, Colo., (303) 497-8604; and Cheryl Dybas, National Science Foundation,
Arlington, Va., (703) 292-7734.
JPL is managed for NASA by the California Institute of Technology.
Alan Buis (818) 354-0474
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
Erica Hupp/Dwayne Brown (202) 358-1237/1726
NASA Headquarters, Washington