Frozen orbits and their application in satellite altimetry

  • Ernst J. O. Schrama
Part of the Lecture Notes in Earth Sciences book series (LNEARTH, volume 50)


For several instrumental reasons, not further to be discussed in this note, there is a desire to minimize the height variations of an altimeter satellite with respect to the mean sea surface. Intuitively one would assume that this is accomplished by minimizing the mean eccentricity of an orbit. However in reality frozen orbits are chosen by which the mean eccentricity significantly differs from zero. It turns out for GEOSAT and SEASAT that it is possible to fix the mean value of the argument of perigee at approximately 90° with a mean eccentricity of about 10−3. In this case the orbit is trapped in deep resonance, a theory originally developed for the odd m=0 coefficients of the gravity field by Cook (1966). On basis of this theory we will discuss the use of frozen orbits in satellite altimetry. We will also point out that Cook’s theory may be extended easily to deep resonant perturbations caused by m≠0 for orbits with repeating ground tracks. Moreover, we will address some difficulties in observing long periodic, large scale effects from satellite altimeter data.


Gravity Field Gravity Model Satellite Altimetry Potential Coefficient Initial State Vector 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. [1]
    Balmino G., Orbit Choice and the Theory of Radial Orbit Error for Altimetry, this issue, 1992.Google Scholar
  2. [2]
    Colombo O.L., Notes on the Mapping of the Gravity Field Using Satellite Data, Springer Verlag series on Earth Sciences, ISBN 3-540-16809-5, 1986.Google Scholar
  3. [3]
    Cook G.E., Perturbations of Near Circular Orbits by the Earth's Gravitational Potential, Planetary and Space Sciences, Vol. 14, pp. 433–444, 1966.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. [4]
    Kaula W.M., Theory of Satellite Geodesy, Blaisdell Publishing Co., 1966.Google Scholar
  5. [5]
    Marsh J.G., et al., An Improved of the Earth's Gravitational Field GEM-T1, Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt Md., 1986.Google Scholar
  6. [6]
    Nerem R.S., Lerch F.J., Putney B.H., Pavlis E.C., Marshall J.A., Earth Gravity Model Development at NASA/GSFC, Annales geophysicae, XVI General Assembly, Wiesbaden Germany, 22–26 April 1991.Google Scholar
  7. [7]
    Rummel R., Principle of Satellite Altimetry and elimination of radial orbit errors, this issue, 1992.Google Scholar
  8. [8]
    Sansò F., Theory of Geodetic B.V.P.'s applied to the analysis of Altimetric Data, this issue, 1992.Google Scholar
  9. [9]
    Schrama E.J.O., The role of orbit errors in processing of satellite altimeter data, Netherlands Geodetic commission, new series, report no. 33, 1989.Google Scholar
  10. [10]
    Wagner C.A., Radial Variations of a Satellite Orbit Due to Gravitational Errors: Implications for Satellite Altimetry, JGR, Vol. 90, No. B4, pp. 3027–3036, 1985.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ernst J. O. Schrama
    • 1
  1. 1.Faculty of GeodesyTU DelftDelftThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations