TERRAPUB Earth, Planets and Space

Earth Planets Space, Vol. 65 (No. 11), pp. 1319-1331, 2013

Thermospheric density and wind retrieval from Swarm observations

Pieter Visser, Eelco Doornbos, Jose van den IJssel, and João Teixeira da Encarnação

Delft University of Technology, Faculty of Aerospace Engineering, Kluyverweg 1, 2629 HS, Delft, The Netherlands

(Received November 27, 2012; Revised August 20, 2013; Accepted August 21, 2013; Online published November 22, 2013)

Abstract: The three-satellite ESA Swarm mission aims at mapping the Earth's global geomagnetic field at unprecedented spatial and temporal resolution and precision. Swarm also aims at observing thermospheric density and possibly horizontal winds. Precise orbit determination (POD) and Thermospheric Density and Wind (TDW) chains form part of the Swarm Constellation and Application Facility (SCARF), which will provide the so-called Level 2 products. The POD and TDW chains generate the orbit, accelerometer calibration, and thermospheric density and wind Level 2 products. The POD and TDW chains have been tested with data from the CHAMP and GRACE missions, indicating that a 3D orbit precision of about 10 cm can be reached. In addition, POD allows to determine daily accelerometer bias and scale factor values with a precision of around 10-15 nm/s2 and 0.01-0.02, respectively, for the flight direction. With these accelerometer calibration parameter values, derived thermospheric density is consistent at the 9-11% level (standard deviation) with values predicted by models (taking into account that model values are 20-30% higher). The retrieval of crosswinds forms part of the processing chain, but will be challenging. The Swarm observations will be used for further developing and improving density and wind retrieval algorithms.
Key words: Swarm, precise orbit determination, thermospheric density, thermospheric winds.

Corresponding author E-mail: P.N.A.M.Visser@tudelft.nl

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