Taking gravity from strength to strength

Ten years ago, ESA launched one of its most innovative satellites. GOCE spent four years measuring a fundamental force of nature: gravity. This extraordinary mission not only yielded new insights into our gravity field, but ...

The satellite on the edge of space

GOCE (pronounced go-chay), the Gravity Field and Steady-State Ocean Circulation Explorer, was one of ESA's most remarkable missions. Operating in the lowest-ever orbit of any Earth observation satellite, GOCE was on the edge ...

First harvest of research based on the final GOCE gravity model

Just four months after the final data package from the GOCE satellite mission was delivered, researchers are laying out a rich harvest of scientific results, with the promise of more to come. A mission of the European Space ...

GOCE reveals gravity dip from ice loss (w/ Video)

Although not designed to map changes in Earth's gravity over time, ESA's extraordinary satellite has shown that the ice lost from West Antarctica over the last few years has left its signature.

Lifetime of gravity measurements heralds new beginning

Although ESA's GOCE satellite is no more, all of the measurements it gathered during its life skirting the fringes our atmosphere, including the very last as it drifted slowly back to Earth, have been drawn together to offer ...

Earthquake scars Earth's gravity

(Phys.org) —ESA's GOCE satellite has revealed that the devastating Japanese earthquake of 2011 left its mark in Earth's gravity – yet another example of this extraordinary mission surpassing its original scope.

Satellite's gravity-mapping mission is over, ESA says

A satellite measuring Earth's gravity since 2009 ran out of fuel Monday and will reenter the atmosphere within three weeks, when it will mostly disintegrate, the European Space Agency said.

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Gravity Field and Steady-State Ocean Circulation Explorer

The Gravity Field and Steady-State Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE) is an ESA satellite that was launched on March 17, 2009. It is a satellite carrying a highly sensitive gravity gradiometer which detects fine density differences in the crust and oceans of the Earth.

GOCE data will have many uses, probing hazardous volcanic regions and bringing new insight into ocean behaviour. The latter, in particular, is a major driver for the mission. By combining the gravity data with information about sea surface height gathered by other satellite altimeters, scientists will be able to track the direction and speed of geostrophic ocean currents. The low orbit and high accuracy of the system will greatly improve the known accuracy and spatial resolution of the geoid (the theoretical surface of equal gravitational potential on the Earth).

The satellite's arrow shape and fins help keep the GOCE stable as it flies through the wisps of air still present at an altitude of 260 km. In addition, an ion propulsion system will continuously compensate for the deceleration of air-drag without the vibration of a conventional chemically-powered rocket engine, thus restoring the path of the craft as closely as possible to a purely inertial trajectory. The craft's primary instrument is three pairs of highly sensitive accelerometers which will measure gravitational gradients in three different axes.

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