Airbus Defence and Space

GOCE: surfing the Earth’s gravity field

The Gravity Field and Steady-State Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE) mission is the first in the European Space Agency’s Earth Explorer Core Missions within the framework of the Living Planet (Earth observation envelope) programme. It is designed to complement the existing Champ and Grace missions.

GOCE’s mission objective is to provide models of the Earth’s gravity field and of its equipotential reference surface on a global scale with high spatial resolution and very high accuracy. This will not only help 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.

Since the gravitational signal is stronger closer to Earth, GOCE has been designed to the travel through what remains of the Earth’s atmosphere at just 250km above the surface which gives the satellite its five metre-long ‘arrow-like’ shape. The satellite is the first mission to employ the concept of ‘gradiometry’ – the measurement of acceleration differences over short distances between a set of proof masses inside the satellite.

The GOCE spacecraft was launched on a Rockot launch vehicle on 17 March 2009 from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia.

Airbus Defence and Space was a member of the core team of partners for the project selected by ESA under the prime contractorship of Thales Alenia Space, and was responsible for the development of the platform.

Earth ObservationEnvironmentGOCEClimate