EGU General Assembly 2021
© Author(s) 2021. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Future Satellite Gravity Missions enhanced by Cold Atom Interferometry Accelerometers

Annike Knabe1, Hu Wu1, Manuel Schilling2, Alireza HosseiniArani1,2, Jürgen Müller1,2, Franck Pereira dos Santos3, and Quentin Beaufils3
Annike Knabe et al.
  • 1Institute of Geodesy, Leibniz University Hannover, Germany
  • 2DLR-Institute for Satellite Geodesy and Inertial Sensing, c/o Leibniz University Hannover, Germany
  • 3LNE-SYRTE, Observatoire de Paris, PSL Research University, CNRS, Sorbonne University Paris, France

Satellite gravity missions, like GRACE and GRACE Follow-On, successfully map the Earth’s gravity field and its changes, but the boundaries of spatial and temporal resolution need to be pushed further. The major enhancement from GRACE to GRACE-FO is the laser interferometry instrument which enables a much more accurate inter-satellite ranging. However, the accelerometers used for observing the non-conservative forces have merely been improved and are one major limiting factor for gravity field recovery. Inertial sensors based on cold atom interferometry (CAI) show promising characteristics, especially their long-term stability at frequencies below 10^-3 Hz is very beneficial. The CAI concept has already been successfully demonstrated in ground experiments. In space, an even higher sensitivity is expected due to increased interrogation time of one interferometer measurement cycle.

In this contribution, we investigate potential next-generation gravity missions (NGGM) following the GRACE design, employing an LRI with GRACE-FO characteristics and the utilisation of CAI accelerometry. The combination of CAI technology with a classic electrostatic accelerometer is evaluated as well. The sensor performances are tested via closed-loop simulations for different scenarios and the recovered gravity field results are evaluated. In order to achieve a realistic model of the atomic interferometer, noise levels depending on the architecture of the sensor and its transfer function are included. Here, also the effect of variations of the non-gravitational accelerations during one interferometer cycle is analyzed.

Another crucial aspect for satellite missions is the drag compensation. Its requirement is reduced by two orders of magnitude when using a CAI accelerometer due to its better known scale factor. The feasibility of such requirements is assessed with respect to simulated satellite dynamics for several altitudes and drag compensation parameters.

H.W. acknowledges support by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) under Germany's Excellence Strategy – EXC 2123 “QuantumFrontiers, Project-ID 390837967“. A.K. acknowledges initial funding for the DLR Institute by the Ministry of Science and Culture of the German State of Lower Saxony from “Niedersächsisches Vorab”. A.H. acknowledges support by DLR-Institute for Satellite Geodesy and Inertial Sensing.

How to cite: Knabe, A., Wu, H., Schilling, M., HosseiniArani, A., Müller, J., Pereira dos Santos, F., and Beaufils, Q.: Future Satellite Gravity Missions enhanced by Cold Atom Interferometry Accelerometers, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-7612,, 2021.

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