Consistent quantification of the impact of key mission design parameters on the performance of next-generation gravity missions

Anna F. Purkhauser, Christian Siemes, Roland Pail

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


The GRACE and GRACE-FO missions have been observing time variations of the Earth's gravity field for more than 15 yr. For a possible successor mission, the need to continue mass change observations have to be balanced with the ambition for monitoring capabilities with an enhanced spatial and temporal resolution that will enable improved scientific results and will serve operational services and applications. Various study groups performed individual simulations to analyse different aspects of possible NGGMs from a scientific and technical point of view. As these studies are not directly comparable due to different assumptions regarding mission design and instrumentation, the goal of this paper is to systematically analyse and quantify the key mission parameters (number of satellite pairs, orbit altitude, sensors) and the impact of various error sources (AO, OT models, post-processing) in a consistent simulation environment.Our study demonstrates that a single-pairmission with laser interferometry in a low orbit with a drag compensation system would be the only possibility within the single-pair options to increase the performance compared to the GRACE/GRACEFO. Tailored post-processing is not able to achieve the same performance as a double-pair mission without post-processing. Also, such a mission concept does not solve the problems of temporal aliasing due to observation geometry. In contrast, double-pair concepts have the potential to retrieve the full AOHIS signal and in some cases even double the performance to the comparable single-pair scenario.When combining a double-pair with laser interferometry and an improved accelerometer, the sensor noise is, apart from the ocean tide modelling errors, one of the limiting factors. Therefore, the next big step for observing the gravity field globally with a satellite mission can only be taken by launching a double pair mission. With this quantification of key architecture features of a future satellite gravity mission, the study aims to improve the available information to allow for an informed decision making and give an indication of priority for the different mission concepts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1190-1210
Number of pages21
JournalGeophysical Journal International
Issue number2
StatePublished - 29 Jan 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Satellite geodesy
  • Satellite gravity
  • Time variable gravity


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