Precise orbit determination of the Sentinel-3A altimetry satellite using ambiguity-fixed GPS carrier phase observations.

Montenbruck, O.; Hackel, S.; Jäggi, Adrian (2018). Precise orbit determination of the Sentinel-3A altimetry satellite using ambiguity-fixed GPS carrier phase observations. Journal of geodesy, 92(7), pp. 711-726. Springer 10.1007/s00190-017-1090-2

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The Sentinel-3 mission takes routine measurements of sea surface heights and depends crucially on accurate and precise knowledge of the spacecraft. Orbit determination with a targeted uncertainty of less than 2 cm in radial direction is supported through an onboard Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver, a Doppler Orbitography and Radiopositioning Integrated by Satellite instrument, and a complementary laser retroreflector for satellite laser ranging. Within this study, the potential of ambiguity fixing for GPS-only precise orbit determination (POD) of the Sentinel-3 spacecraft is assessed. A refined strategy for carrier phase generation out of low-level measurements is employed to cope with half-cycle ambiguities in the tracking of the Sentinel-3 GPS receiver that have so far inhibited ambiguity-fixed POD solutions. Rather than explicitly fixing doubledifferencen phase ambiguities with respect to a network of terrestrial reference stations, a single-receiver ambiguity resolution concept is employed that builds on dedicated GPS orbit, clock, and wide-lane bias products provided by theCNES/CLS (Centre National d’Études Spatiales/Collecte Localisation Satellites) analysis center of the International GNSS Service. Compared to float ambiguity solutions, a notably improved precision can be inferred from laser ranging residuals. These decrease from roughly 9mm down to 5mm standard deviation for high-grade stations on average over low and high elevations. Furthermore, the ambiguity-fixed orbits offer a substantially improved cross-track accuracy and help to identify lateral offsets in the GPS antenna or center-of-mass (CoM) location. With respect to altimetry, the improved orbit precision also benefits the global consistency of sea surface measurements. However, modeling of the absolute height continues to rely on proper dynamical models for the spacecraft motion as well as ground calibrations for the relative position of the altimeter reference point and the CoM.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Astronomy

UniBE Contributor:

Jäggi, Adrian


500 Science > 520 Astronomy








Pierre Fridez

Date Deposited:

24 Apr 2018 08:53

Last Modified:

29 Oct 2019 07:00

Publisher DOI:





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