GPS-Based Reduced Dynamic Orbit Determination Using Accelerometer DataCurrently two gravity field satellite missions, CHAMP and GRACE, are equipped with high sensitivity electrostatic accelerometers, measuring the non-conservative forces acting on the spacecraft in three orthogonal directions. During the gravity field recovery these measurements help to separate gravitational and non-gravitational contributions in the observed orbit perturbations. For precise orbit determination purposes all these missions have a dual-frequency GPS receiver on board. The reduced dynamic technique combines the dense and accurate GPS observations with physical models of the forces acting on the spacecraft, complemented by empirical accelerations, which are stochastic parameters adjusted in the orbit determination process. When the spacecraft carries an accelerometer, these measured accelerations can be used to replace the models of the non-conservative forces, such as air drag and solar radiation pressure. This approach is implemented in a batch least-squares estimator of the GPS High Precision Orbit Determination Software Tools (GHOST), developed at DLR/GSOC and DEOS. It is extensively tested with data of the CHAMP and GRACE satellites. As accelerometer observations typically can be affected by an unknown scale factor and bias in each measurement direction, they require calibration during processing. Therefore the estimated state vector is augmented with six parameters: a scale and bias factor for the three axes. In order to converge efficiently to a good solution, reasonable a priori values for the bias factor are necessary. These are calculated by combining the mean value of the accelerometer observations with the mean value of the non-conservative force models and empirical accelerations, estimated when using these models. When replacing the non-conservative force models with accelerometer observations and still estimating empirical accelerations, a good orbit precision is achieved. 100 days of GRACE B data processing results in a mean orbit fit of a few centimeters with respect to high-quality JPL reference orbits. This shows a slightly better consistency compared to the case when using force models. A purely dynamic orbit, without estimating empirical accelerations thus only adjusting six state parameters and the bias and scale factors, gives an orbit fit for the GRACE B test case below the decimeter level. The in orbit calibrated accelerometer observations can be used to validate the modelled accelerations and estimated empirical accelerations computed with the GHOST tools. In along track direction they show the best resemblance, with a mean correlation coefficient of 93% for the same period. In radial and normal direction the correlation is smaller. During days of high solar activity the benefit of using accelerometer observations is clearly visible. The observations during these days show fluctuations which the modelled and empirical accelerations can not follow.
VanHelleputte, Tom (Technische Hogeschool Delft, Netherlands)