High-dynamic baseline determination for the Swarm constellation

X. Mao*, P. N.A.M. Visser, J. van den IJssel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)
61 Downloads (Pure)


Baseline determination for the European Space Agency Swarm magnetic field mission is investigated. Swarm consists of three identical satellites -A, -B and -C. The Swarm-A and -C form a pendulum formation whose baseline length varies between about 30 and 180 km. Swarm-B flies in a higher orbit, causing its orbital plane to slowly rotate with respect to those of Swarm-A and -C. This special geometry results in short periods when the Swarm-B satellite is adjacent to the other Swarm satellites. Ten 24-hr periods around such close encounters have been selected, with baseline lengths varying between 50 and 3500 km. All Swarm satellites carry high-quality, dual-frequency and identical Global Positioning System receivers not only allowing precise orbit determination of the single Swarm satellites, but also allowing a rigorous assessment of the capability of precise baseline determination between the three satellites. These baselines include the high-dynamic baselines between Swarm-B and the other two Swarm satellites. For all orbit determinations, use was made of an Iterative Extended Kalman Filter approach, which could run in single-, dual-, and triple-satellite mode. Results showed that resolving the issue of half-cycle carrier phase ambiguities (present in original release of GPS RINEX data) and reducing the code observation noise by the German Space Operations Center converter improved the consistency of reduced-dynamic and kinematic baseline solutions for both the Swarm-A/C pendulum pair and other combinations of Swarm satellites. All modes led to comparable consistencies between the computed orbit solutions and satellite laser ranging observations at a level of 2 cm. In addition, the consistencies with single-satellite ambiguity fixed orbit solutions by the German Space Operations Center are at comparable levels for all the modes, with reduced-dynamic baseline consistency at a level of 1-3 mm for the pendulum Swarm-A/C formation and 3-5 mm for the high-dynamic Swarm-B/A and -B/C satellite pairs in different directions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)329-339
Number of pages11
JournalAerospace Science and Technology
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Bibliographical note

Accepted author manuscript


  • Ambiguity fixing
  • Half-cycle ambiguity
  • Precise baseline determination
  • Precise orbit determination
  • Swarm


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