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FORMOSAT-3/COSMIC Constellation Spacecraft System Performance: After One Year in Orbit

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13 Author(s)

The FORMOSAT-3 mission, also known as constellation observing system for meteorology, ionosphere, and climate (COSMIC), is the third major project of the Formosa satellite (FORMOSAT) series implemented by the National Space Organization of Taiwan. FORMOSAT-3/COSMIC is a joint Taiwan/U.S. mission consisting of six identical low Earth orbit satellites. All six cluster satellites were successfully launched by a single Minotaur launch vehicle on April 15, 2006. The retrieved Global Positioning System (GPS) radio occultation (RO) data have been freely available online to the science community since shortly after the completion of satellite bus in-orbit checkout. Having completed the verification and validation, the worldwide science communities are highly satisfied with the RO data. Scientists have hailed the RO sensors as offering the most accurate, precise, and stable thermometers in space. After one year in orbit, all six FORMOSAT-3/COSMIC satellites were in good condition (except FM2, which had power shortage issues) and were on their way toward the final constellation of six separate orbit planes with 30 deg separation. Four out of six satellites had already reached their final mission orbit of 800 km by mid-May 2007. Together, the six satellites have generated a total of more than 2500 RO data per day. However, only 50%-70% of the RO data as received one year after launch could be retrieved into useful atmosphere profiles. The retrieved RO data, about 1800 per day on average, have been assimilated into numerical weather prediction models by many major weather forecast centers and research institutes. This paper provides an overview of the constellation mission, the spacecraft system performance after one year in orbit, the technical challenges we have encountered, and the performance enhancements we have accomplished.

Published in:

IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing  (Volume:46 ,  Issue: 11 )