ESA’s next-generation gravity mission concepts

Roger Haagmans, Christian Siemes, Luca Massotti, Olivier Carraz, Pierluigi Silvestrin

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The paper addresses the preparatory studies of future ESA mission concepts devoted to improve our understanding of the Earth’s mass change phenomena causing temporal variations in the gravity field, at different temporal and spatial scales, due to ice mass changes of ice sheets and glaciers, continental water cycles, ocean masses dynamics and solid-earth deformations.
The ESA initiatives started in 2003 with a study on observation techniques for solid Earth missions and continued through several studies focusing on the satellite system, technology development for propulsion and distance metrology, preferred mission concepts, the attitude and orbit control system, as well as the optimization of the satellite constellation. These activities received precious inputs from the GOCE, GRACE and GRACE-FO missions. More recently, several studies related to new sensor concepts based on cold atom interferometry (CAI) were conducted, mainly focusing on technology development for different instrument configurations (GOCE-like and GRACE-like) and including validation activities, e.g. a first successful airborne survey with a CAI gravimeter.
The latest results concerning the preferred satellite architectures and constellations, payload design and estimated science performance will be presented as well as remaining open issues for future concepts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S15-S25
Number of pages11
JournalRendiconti Lincei. Scienze Fisiche e Naturali
Issue numberSUPPL 1
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Time-variable gravity field
  • Laser ranging
  • Satellite constellation
  • Gravity mission concept
  • Cold-atom interferometry
  • Cold atom interferometry


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