We analyse the inter-boresight angles (IBA) measured by the star trackers on board the GOCE satellite and find that they exhibit small offsets of 7–9″ with respect to the ones calculated from the rotation of the star tracker reference frames to the satellite reference frame. Further, we find small variations in the offsets with a peak-to-peak amplitude of up to 8″, which correlate with variations of the star trackers’ temperatures. Motivated by these findings, we present a method for combining the attitude quaternions measured by two or more star trackers that includes an estimation of relative attitude offsets between star trackers as a linear function of temperature. The method was used to correct and combine the star tracker attitude quaternions within the reprocessing of GOCE data performed in 2018. We demonstrate that the IBA calculated from the corrected star tracker attitude quaternions show no significant offsets with respect to the reference frame information. Finally, we show that neglecting the star tracker attitude offsets in the processing would result in perturbations in the gravity gradients that are visible at frequencies below 2 mHz and have a magnitude of up to 90 mE. The presented method avoids such perturbations to a large extent.
- Attitude quaternion calibration
- Attitude quaternion combination
- GOCE mission
- Satellite gravity gradiometry
- Star trackers