The FORMOSAT-3/COSMIC constellation of satellites was successfully launched on 15 April 2006 and reached the anniversary of the 12th FORMOSAT-3/COSMIC launch this year. Since then, FORMOSAT-3 has accumulated over 6 million atmospheric and over 4 million ionospheric radio occultation (RO) profiles globally. NSPO is pleased to announce that the six (6) FORMOSAT-7 satellites will be ready to launch in 2018 to provide middle and low latitude ionospheric observations globally with high-density observational RO data. In order to study the impact of complex atmospheric dynamics on the space environment around the equator, NASA plans to launch the ICON (Ionospheric Connection Explorer) and GOLD (Global-scale Observations of the Limb and Disk) satellites this year, FORMOSAT-7 will be able to join these missions in revealing the scientific mechanisms determining how ground weather affects the daily changes in space weather.
The National Space Organization (NSPO) of the National Applied Research Laboratory (NARL) will host the 4th ICGPSRO (International Conference on GPS Radio Occultation) in 2018, held in Taipei at the Howard International House during April 18-20. The primary objective of the conference is to provide a platform for the exchange of research results among global RO data users, as well as provide a forum for discussions on important issues such as future scientific cooperation and the calibration and validation of related data after the launch of FORMOSAT-7. Therefore, the attendees include the director of Center for Satellite Applications and Research (STAR) of NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), chairman of International Radio Occultation Working Group (IROWG) under the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) of the United Nations (UN), the program director of ICON, the GOLD satellite mission chief scientist, the director of space weather programs from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the director of the UCAR Community Programs (UCP) Directorate, and the supervisor of ionospheric and atmospheric remote sensing group at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), who will all participate in the conference to join the discussion with the academic community in Taiwan to foster future international cooperation in space research. This conference is expected to showcase more than 60 presentations and posters by more than 150 users from 14 countries. Also at the meeting, NSPO will provide a student workshop and activities for Taiwanese and US graduate students and researchers. FORMOSAT-3/7/7R satellite mockups and associated satellite key components and CubeSats made by domestic manufacturers will also be exhibited at a special booth.
Since launch, FORMOSAT-3 has accumulated over 6 million atmospheric and over 4 million ionospheric radio occultation (RO) data profiles globally. There are over 3,800 community users from 88 countries currently making use of the FORMOSAT-3 data for operational weather forecasting, climate change monitoring, space weather, and other related science and research. FORMOSAT-7 satellites will be ready to launch in this year to bridge the potential FORMOSAT-3 RO data gap and continue the ongoing GNSS RO mission. The FORMOSAT-7 mission is the only operational meteorological satellite in the world that can continue the legacy of FORMOSAT-3. The FORMOSAT-7 mission will be operated at an orbit of 550 km altitude, 24-degree inclination angle, and a period of 97 minutes. FORMOSAT-7 will collect 4,000 RO profiles daily between +/-50-degree latitude. The volume of data generated will be 3~4 times that of FORMOSAT-3, and will greatly increase the amount of atmospheric and ionospheric observation data available at low latitudes, including Taiwan.
FORMOSAT-3 is also the world's most important source of ionospheric RO data. There are about 5 million RO data profiles of ionosphere that have been collected, of which 4.5 million are primarily from the FORMOSAT-3 mission. Using these RO profile data, the Taiwanese space weather community has achieved a number of breakthroughs, including: 1) discovering new forms of space plasma structures near the South Pole and the North Pole; 2) revealing the scientific mechanisms determining how ground weather affects the daily changes in space weather via equatorial atmospheric convection and interactions between Arctic oscillations; and 3) understanding the impact of the El Niño phenomenon on GPS signal perturbations. These breakthroughs were also published in and selected by internationally renowned scientific journals as highlighted articles.
FORMOSAT-3 also created the opportunity for space numerical weather prediction. FORMOSAT-7 will provide middle and low latitude ionospheric observations globally with a data latency of 30 minutes. This will significantly improve the feasibility of space weather modeling and prediction. The joint team formed from Taiwanese universities, the Central Weather Bureau (CWB) of Taiwan, and the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) of the US has developed a state-of-the-art space weather prediction model. This model will also be used to provide space weather forecasting by CWB. The high-density observational RO data can be further studied the impact of complex atmospheric dynamics on the space environment around the equator. This year, NASA launched the ICON and GOLD satellites in order to study this newly discovered research subject. FORMOSAT-7 will be able to join these missions on the similar research topics.
As from the weather contribution perspective, the global atmospheric environment has undergone rapid changes, and severe weather has appeared especially frequently in recent years. Research on meteorology and climate has become a primary issue for global atmospheric and earth scientists. According to an analysis conducted by the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) in 2012, only the data corresponding to 2-3% of the total number of FORMOSAT-3 RO observations are assimilated. Its contribution to reducing forecast error has increased significantly to 10% from 8.5% in 2008, and was listed in the top five data sources in terms of contribution to error reduction.
Although only two satellites are currently available from the FORMOSAT-3 constellation, the Taiwan Typhoon Flood Research Institute (TTFRI) of the NARL has shown that the contribution from RO data in reducing forecast error is still as high as 3% even for a five day advance forecast of the track of typhoons occurred in the year of 2017 using TTFRI's ensemble experiment assimilating the FORMOSAT-3 RO data. The 24-hour cumulative precipitation (including plum rains and typhoons) for the second and third day of the rainfall forecast in the year of 2017 was also improved. All these show that RO data is extremely important for numerical weather prediction. And the global demand for real-time occultation data is only increasing. As the demand for real-time RO data is increasing day by day, the WMO, under the UN, has publicly affirmed the benefits of FORMOSAT-3 RO data. It is rare that a meteorological satellite and its important observations could be recognized and appreciated extensively by nations of the world.
The 4th ICGPSRO will provide as a forum for discussions on issues such as future scientific cooperation, and the calibration and validation of related data after the launch of FORMOSAT-7. Following the future mission trend, the conference has also added research applications for GNSS-Reflectometry (GNSS-R) and included a session on the last day to introduce the NSPO-Built FORMOSAT-7R satellite.
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address to the conference by Harry Cikanek, director of NESDIS Center for Satellite and Applications Research (STAR)
address to the conference by Dr. Kuang-Chong Wu, vice president of National Applied Research Laboratories (NARL)
address to the conference by Dr. Chun-Liang Ling, the director of National Space Organization (NSPO)
keynote speaker Harry Cikanek, director of NESDIS Center for Satellite and Applications Research (STAR)
keynote speaker Prof. J.Y. Liu, National Central University (NCU)
keynote speaker Dr. Bill Kuo, University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR)
at scene of conference
group photo of attendees