Swarm kinematic orbits and gravity fields from 18 months of GPS data

A. Jäggi, C. Dahle, D. Arnold, H. Bock, U. Meyer, G. Beutler, J. van den IJssel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

42 Citations (Scopus)


The Swarm mission consists of three satellites orbiting the Earth at low orbital altitudes. The onboard GPS receivers, star cameras, and laser retro-reflectors make the Swarm mission an interesting candidate to explore the contribution of Swarm GPS data to the recovery of both the static and time-variable gravity fields. We use 1.5 years of Swarm GPS and attitude data to generate kinematic positions of high quality to perform gravity field determination using the Celestial Mechanics Approach. The generated gravity fields reveal severe systematic errors along the geomagnetic equator. Their size is correlated with the ionospheric density and thus strongly varying over the analyzed time period. Similar to the findings of the GOCE mission, the systematic errors are related to the Swarm GPS carrier phase data and may be reduced by rejecting GPS data affected by large ionospheric changes. Such a measure yields a strong reduction of the systematic errors along the geomagnetic equator in the gravity field recovery. Long wavelength signatures of the gravity field may then be recovered with a similar quality as achieved with GRACE GPS data, which makes the Swarm mission well suited to bridge a potential gap between the current GRACE and the future GRACE Follow-On mission.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)218-233
Number of pages16
JournalAdvances in Space Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016


  • Geomagnetic equator
  • GPS high–low SST
  • Gravity field
  • Swarm
  • Time-variable gravity

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