Next Generation Gravity Mission Will Measure the Variable Earth’s Gravity Field with Unprecedented Resolution
NGGM will advance many scientific disciplines based on the study of geophysical phenomena involving the redistribution and transportation of mass (e.g. geodesy, hydrology, ocean circulation) within the complex Earth system. Indeed, mass transport in the Earth’s system takes place in several layers located above, at, and below the Earth’s surface (concerning Atmosphere, Hydrosphere, Oceans, Cryosphere and Solid-Earth). The goal is to observe the mass transport processes acting in and between these layers.
Luca Massotti, RHEA Group’s Spacecraft Earth Observation System Engineer working at the European Research and Technology Center (ESTEC), is responsible for the mission preparation, iterations with the scientific community, system requirements consolidation, the system design, and the necessary technology developments for the mission.
“NGGM is the only direct way to measure the mass globally and the mass transport in the Earth system, being complementary to the measurement of other observables, e.g. SAR/Interferometric Radar altimetry for the monitoring of ice,” said Massotti.
The mission will build on the technology of the Gravity Field and Steady-State Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE) mission and the results of the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) mission, and shall urgently fill the gap after the GRACE-FO mission, due to launch in March 2018 with a nominal lifetime of five years. While GOCE aimed to provide a high-resolution static map of Earth’s gravity, the objective of the next generation gravity mission is the long-term monitoring of the time-variable gravity field with high temporal and spatial resolution.
This new mission implies new measurement techniques and instrumentation, and a new mission scenario subjected to different spacecraft design drivers. Despite the differences, however, the achievements of GOCE stand as the basis on which the new mission is being created.
“NGGM will reuse the experience gained and the technology used on GOCE (like accelerometers, electric propulsion, drag compensation) for the fine measurement of the variable gravity field, continuing the observations of the GRACE missions at increased temporal and spatial resolution,” added Massotti.
Massotti will present the challenges of the design of the mission at the 2018 SciTech Forum taking place from 8-12 January in the United States.
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