Airbus Defence and Space

A new view of the Earth’s gravity field

The most accurate global model ever produced

After less than two years in orbit, the GOCE European research satellite, for which Airbus Defence and Space was responsible for the design and build of the novel platform, has gathered enough data to map Earth’s gravity with unprecedented precision. The new model was unveiled on 31 March.

The Airbus Defence and Space-built platform, with its sensitive active regulation system for attitude control, is a core element for this mission.

The objective of the European Space Agency’s GOCE’s mission, launched in March 2009, is to provide models of the Earth’s gravity field and of its equipotential reference surface (‘geoid’) on a global scale with high spatial resolution and very high accuracy. This is not only helping to extend understanding of the Earth’s interior structure and seismic processes but also of aspects such as ocean circulation, ice sheet topography and evolution and thus global sea-level change.

New GOCE geoid (© ESA)

Left: New GOCE geoid (© ESA)

Gravity influences many of the Earth’s dynamic processes, such as seismic activity and ocean circulation, which plays a crucial role in the world’s energy exchanges. GOCE’s ‘gravity-field map’ data are being used to advance knowledge of oceanography, solid Earth physics and geodesy, to analyse global sea-levels, and improve climate models and forecasts. Practical applications such as surveying also benefit.

Satellites are the only possible way to survey the entire gravitational field of the Earth uniformly.

Earth ObservationGOCE