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What is the COSMIC program?

Visualization of a satellite over planet Earth

The COSMIC mission is a collaborative project between Taiwan and the U.S. to demonstrate the use of the radio occultation (RO) technique for weather prediction, climate monitoring, and space weather forecasting. In April 2006, a constellation of six microsatellites, each carrying an advanced Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver, was launched into low-Earth orbits in space, beginning a new era in atmospheric remote sensing. By tracking the radio signals transmitted by GPS as a COSMIC satellite rises or sets behind Earth (is occulted, or hidden, by Earth) the satellite can acquire hundreds of measurements of these bent signals, which can be converted to vertical profiles of electron density in the ionosphere and temperature and water vapor in the lower atmosphere. 

Since launch, COSMIC has provided more than 4.1 mllion radio occultation soundings to the science and weather forecasting communities. All global operational centers are making use of COSMIC data, which has demonstrated significant positive impacts on their forecasts.

COSMIC-2 is a follow-on mission to COSMIC, with a continued partnership between the U.S. and Taiwan. Two constellations, each with six satellites, will be launched in 2016 and 2018, respectively. The first constellation will be in an Equatorial orbit, which will provide increased observations over the tropics. The second constellation will be in a polar orbit, similar to that of the original COSMIC-1 constellation, and will provide data with global coverage.


Bil Schreiner  schrein@ucar.edu


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The UCAR Community Programs provide innovative resources, tools, and services in support of the research and education goals of the atmospheric and Earth system sciences community.

A major focus for UCP is making sure the science from NCAR and UCAR institutions is translated in novel ways to a variety of audiences and stakeholders.

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