COSMIC-2 blasts off

By on 26 June, 2019

SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy launch vehicle blasts off from Cape Canaveral. Image: SpaceX.

Six satellites in the COSMIC-2 advanced weather forecasting mission have successfully blasted off from Cape Canaveral, with Australia’s Bureau of Metereology to play a key role as the constellation comes online.

Twenty-four experimental satellites in the ‘Space Test 2’ program blasted off from Kennedy Space Center on Tuesday, in a launch described by SpaceX as one of its most difficult ever.

Six of the craft aboard the Falcon Heavy were for the COSMIC-2 (Constellation Observing System for Meteorology, Ionosphere and Climate) Earth observation constellation.

COSMIC-2’s satellites will orbit Earth near the equator, taking measurements of the tropics and subtropics with each of its six satellites containing a high precision GNSS receiver, and sensors for measuring atmospheric temperature, pressure, moisture and density.

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology Chief Data Officer Dr. Anthony Rea said that COSMIC-2 was expected to greatly enhance storm forecasting in Australia, and the BoM would play a key role in the constellation’s deployment.

The Bureau’s technical experts will be working closely with our international partners to ensure the successful deployment of the COSMIC-2 satellites and monitoring them from the Bureau’s ground station in Middle Point, Northern Territory,” he said.

“The Bureau has a large network of ground stations from which we can send and receive signals from satellites. This enables us to make a valuable contribution to international space missions, such as COSMIC-2. In the case of COSMIC-2 we will be sending commands to the satellites as well as downlinking real-time data.”

COSMIC-2’s satellites will use radio occultation to collect GNSS signals that are ‘bent’ as they travel through Earth’s atmosphere. As a secondary payload, each also carries three instruments to measure electron density and other space weather data in the ionosphere.

All six COSMIC-2 satellites have now deployed. The ST-2 mission also included the Lightsail project, the first spacecraft to be propelled solely by sunlight.

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