Impact of tracking loop settings of the Swarm GPS receiver on gravity field recovery

Dahle, C.; Arnold, Daniel; Jäggi, Adrian (2017). Impact of tracking loop settings of the Swarm GPS receiver on gravity field recovery. Advances in space research, 59(12), pp. 2843-2854. Elsevier 10.1016/j.asr.2017.03.003

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The Swarm mission consists of three identical satellites equipped with GPS receivers and orbiting in near-polar low Earth orbits. Thus, they can be used to determine the Earth’s gravity field by means of high-low satellite-to-satellite tracking (hl-SST). However, first results by several groups have revealed systematic errors both in precise science orbits and resulting gravity field solutions which are caused by ionospheric disturbances affecting the quality of Swarm GPS observations. Looking at gravity field solutions, the errors lead to systematic artefacts located in two bands north and south of the geomagnetic equator. In order to reduce these artefacts, erroneous GPS observations can be identified and rejected before orbit and gravity field processing, but this may also lead to slight degradations of orbit and low degree gravity field coeffcient quality. Since the problems were believed to be receiver-specific, the GPS tracking loop bandwidths onboard Swarm have been widened several times starting in May 2015. The influence of these tracking loop updates on Swarm orbits and, particularly, gravity field solutions is investigated in this work. The main findings are that the first updates increasing the bandwidth from 0.25 Hz to 0.5 Hz help to significantly improve the quality of Swarm gravity fields and that the improvements are even larger than those achieved by GPS data rejection. It is also shown that these improvements are indeed due to an improved quality of GPS observations around the geomagnetic equator, and not due to missing observations in these regions. As the ionospheric activity is rather low in the most recent months, the effect of the tracking loop updates in summer 2016 cannot be properly assessed yet. Nevertheless, the quality of Swarm gravity field solutions has already improved after the first updates which is especially beneficial in view of filling the upcoming gap between the GRACE and GRACE Follow-on missions with hl-SST gravity products.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Astronomy

UniBE Contributor:

Arnold, Daniel and Jäggi, Adrian


500 Science > 520 Astronomy








Pierre Fridez

Date Deposited:

14 Aug 2017 15:11

Last Modified:

12 Mar 2019 02:30

Publisher DOI:





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