Precision orbit determination for TOPEX/POSEIDON Journal Article uri icon



  • The TOPEX/POSEIDON mission objective requires that the radial position of the spacecraft be determined with an accuracy better than 13 cm RMS (root mean square). This stringent requirement is an order of magnitude below the accuracy achieved for any altimeter mission prior to the definition of the TOPEX/POSEIDON mission. To satisfy this objective, the TOPEX Precision Orbit Determination (POD) Team was established as a joint effort between the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and the University of Texas at Austin, with collaboration from the University of Colorado and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. During the prelaunch development and the postlaunch verification phases, the POD team improved, calibrated, and validated the precision orbit determination computer software systems. The accomplishments include (1) increased accuracy of the gravity and surface force models and (2) improved performance of both the laser ranging and Doppler tracking systems. The result of these efforts led to orbit accuracies for TOPEX/POSEIDON which are significantly better than the original mission requirement. Tests based on data fits, covariance analysis, and orbit comparisons indicate that the radial component of the TOPEX/POSEIDON spacecraft is determined, relative to the Earth's mass center, with an RMS error in the range of 3 to 4 cm RMS. This orbit accuracy, together with the near continuous dual‐frequency altimetry from this mission, provides the means to determine the ocean's dynamic topography with an unprecedented accuracy.

publication date

  • December 15, 1994

has restriction

  • closed

Date in CU Experts

  • April 18, 2014 4:28 AM

Full Author List

  • Tapley BD; Ries JC; Davis GW; Eanes RJ; Schutz BE; Shum CK; Watkins MM; Marshall JA; Nerem RS; Putney BH

author count

  • 15

Other Profiles

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0148-0227

Additional Document Info

start page

  • 24383

end page

  • 24404


  • 99


  • C12