The Formosat-3/COSMIC satellite constellation, a Taiwan-US collaboration, is to officially retire today, with the Formosat-7/COSMIC-2 constellation taking over its weather observation mission, the National Space Organization (NSPO) said yesterday.
The six-satellite Formosat-3 constellation was launched on April 15, 2006, atop a Minotaur rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
Its original mission was to end after five years, but it has far outlived its expected life span, with only one satellite, the FM6, intermittently producing limited meteorological radio occultation data, said the NSPO, an agency under the National Applied Research Laboratories.
Photo courtesy of the National Applied Research Laboratories
The NSPO is to determine if FM6 — the only one that can still receive signals — can be recalled to be burned up in the atmosphere, NSPO Deputy Director-General Yu Shiann-jeng (余憲政) told the Taipei Times.
The agency has already lost communication with the other five satellites, Yu said.
The agency and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration decided to terminate the satellite’s functions, ending its data transmission and upload capabilities, the NSPO said.
Formosat-3’s accuracy and stability was recognized by the global meteorology community, with the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) in 2012 calling it the fifth-best meteorological observation system.
Despite generating a relatively small volume of data — about 2 to 3 percent of all data used in weather forecasting — Formosat-3 contributed to reducing forecast errors by 10 percent, the ECMWF said.
It assisted the US government in making emergency evacuation decisions with its accurate prediction of Hurricane Sandy’s trajectory in 2012, the NSPO said.
“As of Monday last week, there are 4,551 registered community users from 92 nations that used the data,” the NSPO said.
The constellation set an excellent lifetime record and has been mentioned in numerous papers featured in leading academic journals, such as Nature and Science, as well as publications focused on atmospheric science and engineering, it added.
The Formosat-7 constellation, which is also comprised of six satellites, was launched on June 25 last year.
Data gathered by Formosat-7 has been publicly available since March 7.
The Central Weather Bureau’s data analysis center daily releases all meteorological data gathered from the previous day, allowing research facilities to apply to research extreme or abnormal weather patterns; the formation of typhoons and their paths; and predictions and analysis for heavy rainfall, the NSPO said.
Additional reporting by Lin Chia-nan
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