Airbus Defence and Space

GOCE "surfs" the Earth’s gravitational field

Plesetsk/Friedrichshafen, 24 February 2009 – The European research satellite GOCE is scheduled for lift-off on March 16, 2009. It will be launched from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Northern Russia (approx. 800 km north of Moscow) on board a Rockot vehicle provided by Eurockot Launch Services under a contract with the European Space Agency.

 The Gravity-Field and Steady-State Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE) will ‘surf’ the Earth’s gravitational field and investigate the interior of the planet from an altitude of about 250 kilometres.


  • Research satellite will surf Earth’s gravitational field to aid understanding of the climate.
  • Airbus Defence and Space built the satellite’s platform as part of international consortium.

GOCE will circle the Earth for at least 20 months and measure the gravitational field more precisely than ever before. The Airbus Defence and Space-built platform, with its sensitive active regulation system for attitude control, is a core element for this mission.

 The data collected will be used to study the structure of the Earth’s interior and, at the same time, facilitate oceanographic investigations such as measuring the possible rise in the level of the ocean, or analysing ocean currents. Understanding the intricacies of ocean currents will greatly improve climate models and climate forecasts.

GOCE has been produced by an international consortium led by Thales Alenia Space. In this consortium, Airbus Defence and Space in Friedrichshafen was responsible for the construction of the satellite platform with its engineers building on the knowledge and experience gained from earlier satellite developments, such as the environment monitoring satellite CryoSat. From a scientific standpoint, GOCE is an extension of the CHAMP and GRACE missions, produced under the direction of Airbus Defence and Space. Airbus Defence and Space Spain has delivered the carbon fibre structure for the platform as well as some electronic equipment. 

About Airbus Defence and Space

Airbus Defence and Space, a wholly owned subsidiary of AIRBUS Group, is dedicated to providing civil and defence space systems and services. In 2007, Airbus Defence and Space had a turnover of €3.5 billion and 12,000 employees in France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain and the Netherlands. Its three main areas of activity are Airbus Defence and Space for launchers and orbital infrastructure, Airbus Defence and Space for spacecraft and ground segment and its wholly owned subsidiary Airbus Defence and Space for the development and delivery of satellite services.

AIRBUS Group is a global leader in aerospace, defence and related services. In 2007, AIRBUS Group generated revenues of €39.1 billion and employed a workforce of more than 116, 000.

Press contacts:

Jeremy Close (Airbus Defence and Space UK)                                      Tel.: +44 (0)1 438 77 3872

Matthieu Duvelleroy (Airbus Defence and Space FR)                            Tel.: +33 (0) 1 77 75 80 32

Mathias Pikelj (Airbus Defence and Space GER)                                    Tel.: +49 (0) 7545 8 9123

Francisco Lechón (Airbus Defence and Space SP)                                 Tel.: +34 91 586 37 41