Gravity field recovery using two low satellites in different orbital planes

  • Ruaraidh A. MacKenzie

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This study is concerned with gravity field recovery from low-low satellite to satellite range rate data. An improvement over a coplanar mission is predicted in the errors associated with certain parts of the geopotential by the separation of the orbital planes of the two satellites. Using Hill's equations an analytical scheme to model the range rate residuals is developed. It is flexible enough to model equally well the residuals between pairs of satellites in the same orbital plane or whose planes are separated in right ascension. The possible benefits of such an orientation to gravity field recovery from range rate data can therefore be analysed, and this is done by means of an extensive error analysis. The results of this analysis show that for an optimal planar mission improvements can be made by separating the satellites in right ascension. Gravity field recoveries are performed in order to verify and gauge the limitations of the analytical model, and to support the results of the error analysis. Finally the possible problem of the differential decay rates of two satellites due to the diurnal bulge are evaluated.
Date of Award1995
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorPhilip Moore (Supervisor)


  • Gravity field recovery
  • satellites
  • orbital planes

Cite this