Height unification using GOCE

R. Rummel 1
  • 1 Institute of Astronomical and Physical Geodesy (IAPG), Technische Universität München, 80 290 München


With the gravity field and steady-state ocean circulation explorer (GOCE) (preferably combined with the gravity field and climate experiment (GRACE)) a new generation of geoid models will become available for use in height determination. These models will be globally consistent, accurate (<3 cm) and with a spatial resolution up to degree and order 200, when expressed in terms of a spherical harmonic expansion. GOCE is a mission of the European Space Agency (ESA). It is the first satellite equipped with a gravitational gradiometer, in the case of GOCE it measures the gradient components Vxx , Vyy, Vzzand Vxz. The GOCE gravitational sensor system comprises also a geodetic global positioning system (GPS)-receiver, three star sensors and ion-thrusters for drag compensation in flight direction. GOCE was launched in March 2009 and will fly till the end of 2013. Several gravity models have been derived from its data, their maximum degree is typically between 240 and 250. In summer 2012 a first re-processing of all level-1b data took place. One of the science objectives of GOCE is the unification of height systems. The existing height offsets among the datum zones can be determined by least-squares adjustment. This requires several precise geodetic reference points available in each height datum zone, physical heights from spirit levelling (plus gravimetry), the GOCE geoid and, in addition, short wavelength geoid refinement from terrestrial gravity anomalies. GOCE allows for important simplifications of the functional and stochastic part of the adjustment model. The future trend will be the direct determination of physical heights (orthometric as well as normal) from precise global navigation satellite system (GNSS)-positioning in combination with a next generation combined satellite-terrestrial high-resolution geoid model.

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