The scientists had suspected that there were large inaccuracies in the previous models, calculated on the basis of conventional methods, particularly in the Himalayas, parts of Africa, and the Andes The initial evaluations of the GOCE data do indeed confirm this hypothesis. "Measurements made from the surface of the Earth in regions that are difficult to get to carry a high risk of errors," explains Rummel. "This is not a problem for the satellite, of course."
Not only the data, but also the satellite itself is proving to be very robust. It was originally intended to carry out the actual measurements for one year from October, with a break after six months. However, GOCE's energy supply is operating so well and its stability is so high that this rest phase was not necessary. "We hope we can continue to measure for even three to four years," says Rummel - and this despite the extremely challenging track the satellite is on: Its working height of 255 kilometers is the lowest Earth orbit ever for a scientific satellite. Its path must be continuously corrected with an electric ion propulsion system so that it does not crash to Earth. "This works extremely well," says Rummel with delight. The Sun, which has been behaving extremely peacefully in recent months, is aiding the mission. Stronger solar activity would increase the aerodynamic drag and thus make control more difficult.
The scientists expect the mission to enable better understanding of many processes both on and below the surface of the Earth. Because gravitation is directly correlated with the distribution of mass in the Earth's interior, mapping gravitation in detail can contribute to better understanding of dynamics in Earth's crust. Understanding better why and where the movement of tec
|Contact: Patrick Regan|
Technische Universitaet Muenchen