Atmospheric Gravitational Influence on Geodetic Satellite Orbits: Starlette Analysis

  • B. Fong Chao
  • Joseph C. Chan
Conference paper
Part of the International Association of Geodesy Symposia book series (IAG SYMPOSIA, volume 110)


The atmosphere is constantly in motion. The changing gravitational force due to the air mass movement will slightly perturb the orbit of a satellite. As the instrument accuracy for geodetic satellites improves, failure to model this perturbation can result in significant systematic errors in the orbit determination. The latter, in turn, will find their way into and degrade the Earth’s gravity solutions. A direct modeling technique to analyze the atmospheric gravitational influence on geodetic satellite is developed. We use the global surface pressure data from the European Center for Medium Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF Initial Analysis Database) to compute the gravitational force due to atmospheric perturbation exerted on given satellite as a function of time during selected orbital arcs. Satellite Laser Ranging (SLR) tracking data for selected Starlette (altitude 900km) orbital arcs are used to test the computed force model. Although only a slight reduction in the root-mean-square (rms) residuals is observed when the atmospheric gravitational perturbation is included in the force model for data reduction of the SLR data, significant improvement is obtained in the predictability of the satellite orbit. Comprehensive studies involving more definitive test criteria and more refined models are still needed.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York, Inc. 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • B. Fong Chao
    • 1
  • Joseph C. Chan
    • 2
  1. 1.Geodynamics BranchGoddard Space Flight CenterGreenbeltUSA
  2. 2.ST Systems Corp.LanhamUSA

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