Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov

Russia helps Europe launch its pioneering satellite

Russian booster Rockot with European satellite GOCE on board blasted off from the Plesetsk spaceport on March 17.

The GOCE spacecraft is the fruit of cooperation and extensive research between scientists from 45 European companies. The satellite will analyze the Earth’s gravitational field. The gradiometer of the spacecraft will measure the gravitation of the planet with high precision. The measurement precision is provided with six accelerometers, which exceeds the measurement accuracy of previously installed satellite devices 100 times.

GOCE is also outfitted with navigational instruments receiving GPS signals to provide the precise positioning of the spacecraft above the earth’s surface. The laser reflector will allow to keep track of the movement of the satellite with the help of ground-based lasers.

The satellite was launched to create the gravitational map of the planet. The observation data will help scientists improve the current climate models after they analyze how the planet’s gravitational field affects the circulation of the ocean and sea level alterations.

The satellite will operate for two years. It is the first spacecraft of the Earth Explorer series of satellites, which are meant to collect the information about the nature of climate changes and other critical changes on planet Earth.

The Gravity Field and Steady-State Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE) is an ESA satellite that was launched on March 17, 2009.

GOCE data will have many uses, probing hazardous volcanic regions and bringing new insight into ocean behaviour. The latter, in particular, is a major driver for the mission. By combining the gravity data with information about sea surface height gathered by other satellite altimeters, scientists will be able to track the direction and speed of geostrophic ocean currents.

Its arrow shape and fins help keep the satellite stable as it flies through the wisps of air still present at an altitude of 260 km. The low orbit and high accuracy will improve the known accuracy of the geoid and spatial resolution.