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Satellite geodesy is geodesy by means of artificial satellites — the measurement of the form and dimensions of Earth, the location of objects on its surface and the figure of the Earth's gravity field by means of artificial satellite techniques. It belongs to the broader field of space geodesy. Traditional astronomical geodesy is not commonly considered a part of satellite geodesy, although there is considerable overlap between the techniques.[1]

The main goals of satellite geodesy are:

  1. Determination of the figure of the Earth, positioning, and navigation (geometric satellite geodesy[2])
  2. Determination of geoid, Earth's gravity field and its temporal variations (dynamical satellite geodesy[3] or satellite physical geodesy)
  3. Measurement of geodynamical phenomena, such as crustal dynamics and polar motion[4][5]

Satellite geodetic data and methods can be applied to diverse fields such as navigation, hydrography, oceanography and geophysics. Satellite geodesy relies heavily on orbital mechanics.

A gravity gradiometer can independently determine the components of the gravity vector on a real-time basis. A gravity gradient is simply the spatial derivative of the gravity vector. The gradient can be thought of as the rate of change of a component of the gravity vector as measured over a small dis

A gravity gradiometer can independently determine the components of the gravity vector on a real-time basis. A gravity gradient is simply the spatial derivative of the gravity vector. The gradient can be thought of as the rate of change of a component of the gravity vector as measured over a small distance. Hence, the gradient can be measured by determining the difference in gravity at two close but distinct points. This principle is embodied in several recent moving-base instruments. The gravity gradient at a point is a tensor, since it is the derivative of each component of the gravity vector taken in each sensitive axis. Thus, the value of any component of the gravity vector can be known all along the path of the vehicle if gravity gradiometers are included in the system and their outputs are integrated by the system computer. An accurate gravity model will be computed in real-time and a continuous map of normal gravity, elevation, and anomalous gravity will be available.[19][20]

Example: GOCE

Satellite-to-satellite tracking

This technique uses satellites to track other satellites. There are a number of variations which may be used for specific purposes such as gravity field investigations and orbit improvement.