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Gravity satellite to benefit future missions

19 July 2012

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ESA’s GOCE satellite is not only mapping Earth’s gravity with unrivalled precision, but is also revealing new insight into air density and wind in space. This additional information is expected to improve the design and operation of future Earth observation missions.

Most satellites orbit Earth higher than 400 km. Lower than that and atmospheric drag causes them to slow down quickly and reenter the atmosphere prematurely.

This posed a problem for the designers of the GOCE mission. They needed to fly the satellite much closer to Earth, at around 270 km, so that the gradiometer instrument could measure tiny variations in the gravity field with high precision.

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