The First COSMIC Satellite Mission Ends After 14 Years

cosmic

The first Constellation Observing System for Meteorology, Ionosphere, and Climate (COSMIC) project began in 2006. 

Throughout its lifetime, COSMIC-1 realized 7 million vertical atmospheric profiles. The data demonstrably enhanced prediction precision and was referenced in many scientific publications. Here are the latest details. 

COSMIC-1’s Data Significance

The last of six satellites sent into orbit 14 years ago was officially retired this month, outlasting its initial planned lifespan by a dozen years. The University Corporation operates the COSMIC Program and its data products for Atmospheric Research (UCAR).

COSMIC-1 utilized a technique dubbed radio occultation to determine vertical atmospheric profiles of pressure, humidity, temperature, by measuring the degree to which GPS signals change as they travel through Earth’s atmosphere. 

The resulting abundance of high-quality, exact data was offered to weather centers to enhance forecasts and to research institutions for use in scientific projects. The director of the UCAR COSMIC program, Bill Schreiner, stated: “COSMIC-1 showed the world that these compact, low-cost satellites could have a big impact on our ability to predict the weather accurately and better understand atmospheric processes.”

COSMIC-1 also inspired entities in both the private sectors and government to seek more and better-quality GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) radio occultation data. Among the latest missions inspired by the first COSMIC satellite’s success is its successor, COSMIC-2. The mission was launched back in 2019 by NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), as their first operational GNSS radio occultation project. 

COSMIC-2 now realizes almost 5,000 high-quality atmospheric profiles daily that are offered for numerical weather prediction programs and to researchers. COSMIC-1 inspired, as well, the commercial industry to gather radio occultation information, which has made NOAA and other US agencies to buy such data for evaluation and possible scientific and operational use. COSMIC-1 won’t be forgotten, especially when scientists regularly reprocess its data for future use. 

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