GOCE will measure the magnitude and direction of the Earth’s gravity field with a previously unheard of accuracy. The information is important for research into ocean currents, sea level variations, the Earth’s climate, and processes going on inside the Earth’s masses. GOCE delivers an essential contribution to our knowledge of System Earth, the most complicated life support system known to man.
GOCE’s orbit is extremely low for a satellite, (around 260 km rather than the normal 700 km or more) specifically in order to be able to accurately measure the Earth’s gravity. Because the satellite will still encounter resistance from the remaining atmosphere at that height, it has been streamlined as much as possible, creating an exceptionally formed aerodynamic satellite. The innovative propulsion system compensates for the last bit of drag, so that measurements can be taken with extreme accuracy. GOCE (Gravity Field and Steady State Ocean Circulation Explorer) will use top of the line technology to supply the scientific community with new insights into ocean circulation, physics of the Earth’s interior, geodesy and surveying and sea level change.
The Netherlands and GOCE
The Netherlands scientific community and space industry delivers important contributions to GOCE. The satellite’s solar arrays are provided by Dutch Space and the innovative cold gas propulsion system is delivered by Bradford Engineering. The Netherlands Institute for Space Research (SRON) and the Delft University of Technology both contributed to GOCE from the moment the project lay on the drawing board. The TU Delft used its experience with accurate orbit and gravity field determination to help confirm the proper operation of the satellite and calibration of the satellite data. SRON, together with the Technical University of Munich, TU Delft and eight other European institutes, developed GOCE’s data processing system, which takes raw data from the satellite and calculates deliverable scientific information. After the scientific information has been interpreted and converted to an understandable format, it will be used by scientists world wide.