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- Signals from global positioning system (GPS) satellites are now being used for more than just location and navigation information. By looking at the radio waves from GPS satellites, a technology developed at NASA s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) not only precisely calculates its position, but can also use a technique known as radio occultation to help scientists study the Earth s atmosphere and gravity field to improve weather forecasts, monitor climate change, and enhance space weather research. The University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), a nonprofit group of universities in Boulder, Colorado, compares radio occultation to the appearance of a pencil when viewed though a glass of water. The water molecules change the path of visible light waves so that the pencil appears bent, just like molecules in the air bend GPS radio signals as they pass through (or are occulted by) the atmosphere. Through measurements of the amount of bending in the signals, scientists can construct detailed images of the ionosphere (the energetic upper part of the atmosphere) and also gather information about atmospheric density, pressure, temperature, and moisture. Once collected, this data can be input into weather forecasting and climate models for weather prediction and climate studies. Traditionally, such information is obtained through the use of weather balloons. In 1998, JPL started developing a new class of GPS space science receivers, called Black Jack, that could take precise measurements of how GPS signals are distorted or delayed along their way to the receiver. By 2006, the first demonstration of a GPS radio occultation constellation was launched through a collaboration among Taiwan s National Science Council and National Space Organization, the U.S. National Science Foundation, NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and other Federal entities. Called the Constellation Observing System for Meteorology, Ionosphere, and Climate (COSMIC), JPL was responsible for designing COSMIC s primary instrument - based on its revolutionary Black Jack receiver.
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- NASA Technical Reports Server (NTRS) Collection.
- Document ID: 20120001914.
Spinoff 2011; 122-123; NASA/NP-2011-11-780-HQ.
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