CHAMP, GRACE, GOCE and Swarm Thermosphere Density Data with Improved Aerodynamic and Geometry Modelling

Gunther March, Eelco Doornbos, Pieter Visser

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractScientific


Since 2000, accelerometers on board of the CHAMP, GRACE, GOCE and Swarm satellites have provided highresolution thermosphere density data, improving knowledge on atmospheric dynamics and coupling processes in the thermosphere-ionosphere layer. Most of the research has focused on relative changes in density. Scale differences between datasets and models have been largely neglected or removed using ad hoc scale factors. The origin of these variations arises from errors in the aerodynamic modelling, specifically in the modelling of the satellite outer surface geometry and of the gas-surface interactions. Therefore, in order to further improve density datasets and models that rely on these datasets, and in order to make them align with each other in terms of the absolute scale of the density, it is first required to enhance the geometry modelling. Once accurate geometric models of the satellites are available, it will be possible to enhance the characterization of the gassurface interactions, and to enhance the satellite aerodynamic modelling. This presentation offers an accurate approach for determining aerodynamic forces and torques and improved density data for CHAMP, GRACE, GOCE and Swarm. Through detailed high fidelity 3-D CAD models and Direct Simulation Monte Carlo computations, flow shadowing and complex concave geometries can be investigated. This was not possible with previous closed-form solutions, especially because of the low fidelity geometries and the incapability to introduce shadowing effects. This inaccurate geometry and aerodynamic modelling turned out to have relevant influence on derived densities, particularly for satellites with complex elongated shapes and protruding instruments, beams and antennae. Once the geometry and aerodynamic modelling have been enhanced with the proposed approach, the accelerometer data can be reprocessed leading to 81 higher fidelity density estimates. An overview of achieved improvements and dataset comparisons will be provided together with an introduction to the next gas-surface interactions research phase.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages2
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Event4th Swarm Science Meeting & Geodetic Missions Workshop - Banff, Canada
Duration: 20 Mar 201724 Mar 2017
Conference number: 4


Conference4th Swarm Science Meeting & Geodetic Missions Workshop
Internet address


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