Credit: Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd
Six of the 24 payloads that launched on Falcon Heavy last week were the constellation of COSMIC-2 microsatellites by NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and the National Space Organization (NSPO). Built on the success of COSMIC-1, these six satellites will work in unison to observe the Climate, Ionosphere, and Atmosphere of our planet. They have multiple sensors on board to record temperature, air pressure, density, and humidity to improve weather forecasts and current climate models.
About the size of a standard kitchen oven and a refrigerator, these microsatellites are fitted with 3 main sensors to monitor and better predict weather patterns on the Earth. There’s a Tri-global Navigation Satellite System Radio Occultation Receiver (TGRS) on board to capture a high-resolution cross section view of the Earth’s atmosphere. It can sense temperature, pressure, moisture, lightning, and electron density in the upper atmosphere all from space! There’s also an Ion Velocity Meter (IVM) that’s used to measure velocity of ions in the upper atmosphere which helps with improving the accuracy of space weather predictions. Not only does it help with predicting space weather, it can also help us further understand the effects that geomagnetic solar storms from the sun affect our atmosphere. The last major instrument on each of these satellites are the Radio Frequency Beacon (RF Beacon), which measures the total electron content in the Earth’s upper atmosphere to keep a closer eye on space weather.
Image credit: Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd
These satellites are going to help a ton with more up-to-date and accurate weather forecasts, which will allow watches and warnings to be issued for areas further in advance. They will provide a continuous source of data about the atmosphere and use a radio occultation technique that allows a near real-time view of the atmosphere.
The 6 COSMIC-2 satellites were deployed from Falcon Heavy at an altitude of 520km (322 miles) above the Earth in an inclination that places them right over the tropics where it can take frequent measurements and learn about how tropical storms form. The sensors onboard record high-resolution water vapor data to better observe, research, and forecast hurricanes, typhoons, and other storms. With this new higher level of accuracy over the tropics, these readings can help visualize long-term variations in the Earth’s climate patterns. All the data these satellites gather can be received by ground stations located near the equator and can be downloaded in less than 30 minutes after being observed.
Image credit: Richard Angle