A major step toward the Constellation Observing System for Meteorology, Ionosphere, and Climate (COSMIC) project took place in April 1995 when a prototype instrument designed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) went into orbit aboard the MicroLab-1 satellite on a mission conceptualized and planned by UCAR's GPS/MET team. The GPS/MET prototype obtained over 100,000 atmospheric soundings, fulfilling its role as a proof-of-concept experiment.
A new chapter in the development of GPS RO began on December 4, 1997 when UCAR signed a planning contract with Taiwan's National SPace Organization (NSPO) to explore meteorological applications of Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites and created the newest member of the UCAR Community Programs: the COSMIC Program Office.
This collaboration resulted in the development of the FORMOSAT-3/COSMIC-1 constellation. Since its launch in 2006, COSMIC-1 has made a huge impact. More than 4000 researchers from 95 countries are registered users of COSMIC-1 data, which are freely available to users in all countries. The data include electron counts in the ionosphere and atmospheric soundings of temperature, moisture, and pressure in the troposphere and stratosphere. Currently, some 90% of COSMIC-1 soundings are available within three hours of collection. These soundings are directly improving global analyses of the atmosphere, especially above the oceans, polar regions, and other hard-to-sample areas. Moreover, since so many soundings are collected around the clock and around the globe, COSMIC-1 provides a three-dimensional picture of the diurnal cycle in all types of weather.
Currently, the COSMIC Program is a major partner on a follow-on mission, FORMOSAT-7/COSMIC-2, which will place an operational system of 6 satellites with next generation sensors into orbit in 2019.