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Space and numerical weather prediction get a boost thanks to COSMIC-2 software update

June 30, 2021

Thanks to a software update, COSMIC-2 is gathering more data than ever since mission start. This increase in data is expected to reduce forecast errors in the Numerical Weather Prediction (NWP) system.

COSMIC-2 collects information on atmospheric conditions, including temperature, pressure, density, and water vapor content, known as soundings. Together, this information provides vital data that are widely used, not only in numerical weather predictions, but also in climate research and meteorological studies.

The primary purpose of the update was to increase observations of the ionosphere (a layer of Earth’s atmosphere that extends roughly 50 to 600 miles above Earth’s surface.) This will help NOAA better predict the impact of ionospheric electrons on operations and daily life.  The update to the six-satellite constellation took roughly 2 months and included fixing software bugs and troubleshooting. 

Though the update has dramatically improved the performance of COSMIC-2, it is not the end for the program! We have at least two more major software updates planned to improve its capabilities even further. The first, occurring by August, is designed to further increase the number of ionospheric data the mission collects. The second update, expected in Fall of 2021, allows COSMIC-2 to make observations using a third GNSS constellation, Europe's Galileo mission (GNSS is a similar system to our GPS satellites.) This update is expected to improve COSMIC-2's RO measurement performance by an additional 20%, which will mean further gains for weather prediction.