Future Mission Design Options for Spatio-Temporal Geopotential Recovery

  • T. ReubeltEmail author
  • N. Sneeuw
  • M. A. Sharifi
Conference paper
Part of the International Association of Geodesy Symposia book series (IAG SYMPOSIA, volume 135)


Sampling the Earth from single-satellite missions or single-orbit formations is necessarily limited by the mandatory balance between spatial and temporal resolution. A short repeat period leads to sparse ground-track spacing. Conversely, dense satellite coverage can only be attained at the cost of time resolution. For future gravity field missions, geoscience communities are pushing for ever higher resolution than GRACE, both in time and space. A logical consequence would be multi-satellite and/or multi-groundtrack configurations.

We investigate the basic parameters that determine space-time resolution. Under the assumption of a repeat orbit two basic rules for sampling the Earth from space are provided. The familiar Nyquist rule of thumb links the number of revolutions in a repeat period to the maximum spherical harmonic degree. A second sampling rule, expressing the balance between spatial and temporal resolution, is coined the Heisenberg rule.

Simulations demonstrate how future mission concepts might benefit from multi-satellite/multi-groundtrack configurations.


Time variable gravity Temporal aliasing Spatial aliasing Satellite configurations Future satellite missions Geopotential recovery Heisenberg sampling rule Nyquist rule 



This study was performed within the contract 20403 “Monitoring and modelling individual sources of mass distribution and transport in the Earth system by means of satellites” of the European Space Agency. We thank ESA for the financial support and the project team for providing data and input to this study.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Geodesy, Universität StuttgartStuttgartGermany
  2. 2.Surveying and Geomatics Engineering DepartmentUniversity of TehranTehranIran

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