Geocenter coordinates estimated from GNSS data as viewed by perturbation theory

Meindl, Michael; Beutler, Gerhard; Thaller, Daniela; Dach, Rolf; Jäggi, Adrian (2013). Geocenter coordinates estimated from GNSS data as viewed by perturbation theory. Advances in space research, 51(7), pp. 1047-1064. Pergamon 10.1016/j.asr.2012.10.026

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Time series of geocenter coordinates were determined with data of two global navigation satellite systems (GNSSs), namely the U.S. GPS (Global Positioning System) and the Russian GLONASS (Global’naya Nawigatsionnaya Sputnikowaya Sistema). The data was recorded in the years 2008–2011 by a global network of 92 permanently observing GPS/GLONASS receivers. Two types of daily solutions were generated independently for each GNSS, one including the estimation of geocenter coordinates and one without these parameters.

A fair agreement for GPS and GLONASS was found in the geocenter x- and y-coordinate series. Our tests, however, clearly reveal artifacts in the z-component determined with the GLONASS data. Large periodic excursions in the GLONASS geocenter z-coordinates of about 40 cm peak-to-peak are related to the maximum elevation angles of the Sun above/below the orbital planes of the satellite system and thus have a period of about 4 months (third of a year). A detailed analysis revealed that the artifacts are almost uniquely governed by the differences of the estimates of direct solar radiation pressure (SRP) in the two solution series (with and without geocenter estimation). A simple formula is derived, describing the relation between the geocenter z-coordinate and the corresponding parameter of the SRP. The effect can be explained by first-order perturbation theory of celestial mechanics. The theory also predicts a heavy impact on the GNSS-derived geocenter if once-per-revolution SRP parameters are estimated in the direction of the satellite’s solar panel axis. Specific experiments using GPS observations revealed that this is indeed the case.

Although the main focus of this article is on GNSS, the theory developed is applicable to all satellite observing techniques. We applied the theory to satellite laser ranging (SLR) solutions using LAGEOS. It turns out that the correlation between geocenter and SRP parameters is not a critical issue for the SLR solutions. The reasons are threefold: The direct SRP is about a factor of 30–40 smaller for typical geodetic SLR satellites than for GNSS satellites, allowing it in most cases to not solve for SRP parameters (ruling out the correlation between these parameters and the geocenter coordinates); the orbital arc length of 7 days (which is typically used in SLR analysis) contains more than 50 revolutions of the LAGEOS satellites as compared to about two revolutions of GNSS satellites for the daily arcs used in GNSS analysis; the orbit geometry is not as critical for LAGEOS as for GNSS satellites, because the elevation angle of the Sun w.r.t. the orbital plane is usually significantly changing over 7 days.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Further Contribution)


08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Astronomy

UniBE Contributor:

Meindl, Michael, Beutler, Gerhard, Thaller, Daniela, Dach, Rolf, Jäggi, Adrian


500 Science > 520 Astronomy








Pierre Fridez

Date Deposited:

11 Jul 2014 11:02

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 14:30

Publisher DOI:



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