The detailed knowledge of the Earth's gravity field is of fundamental importance for nearly all branches of geo-disciplines, like geodesy, geophysics, oceanography or climatology, only to name a few.
ESA's dedicated satellite mission GOCE (Gravity Field and Steady State Ocean Circulation Explorer) will be a quantum leap in ongoing gravity field research, with its recent launch in March 2009. The core instruments onboard GOCE are a high-precision GPS-receiver instrument for precise orbit determination as well as a high-precision gravity-gradiometer instrument, which is capable of measuring the second order derivatives of the gravity potential in all three directions.
During its several measurement phases of about 20 months of scheduled mission duration, the Earth's gravity field shall be determined with utmost global accuracy of few centimeters in geoidal height.
The Space Research Institute (IWF Graz) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, in close collaboration with the Institute of Navigation and Satellite Geodesy of the Graz University of Technology (TU Graz), is actively involved in the GOCE mission, particularly in the SST (Satellite-to-Satellite-Tracking) data processing and the strict computation of an Earth’s gravity field model.
The GOCE data will strongly contribute to a better understanding of the whole Earth system in general and its gravity field in particular.