Early pioneer for GPS as weather tool

I enjoyed Debra Werner’s article, “Proving themselves: Radio occultation is put to the test,” in the February issue of Aerospace America. AIAA members may be interested in a bit of the prehistory of weather forecasting using GPS signals received by small, low-orbit satellites.

John McLucas became an early advocate of what he called “GPS Meteorology” in the 1990s, and as a long-serving member of our board of directors urged Orbital Sciences Corp. to work with the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research to include an occultation receiver on our first commercial remote sensing satellite, OrbView-1, which was launched in 1995. This proof-of-concept mission demonstrated the technical feasibility of atmospheric soundings using GPS signals and led to our codevelopment, along with the Taiwan National Space Organization, of the six first-generation COSMIC, for Constellation Observing System for Meteorology, Ionosphere and Climate, satellites, which we launched in 2006.

John was an outstanding leader and space applications visionary who served as secretary of the Air Force, director of the National Reconnaissance Office, administrator of the FAA and president of MITRE Corp., as well as in other important positions. As part of an extraordinary career in aviation and space, he also served as AIAA’s president in 1984.

John passed away in 2002, but I am sure he would be delighted to see how far his concept for “GPS Met” has progressed in recent years.

David W. Thompson
Retired president and
CEO of Orbital ATK
AIAA president 2009-2010

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Weather satellites

Early pioneer for GPS as weather tool