Phase center modeling for LEO GPS receiver antennas and its impact on precise orbit determination
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- Jäggi, A., Dach, R., Montenbruck, O. et al. J Geod (2009) 83: 1145. doi:10.1007/s00190-009-0333-2
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Most satellites in a low-Earth orbit (LEO) with demanding requirements on precise orbit determination (POD) are equipped with on-board receivers to collect the observations from Global Navigation Satellite systems (GNSS), such as the Global Positioning System (GPS). Limiting factors for LEO POD are nowadays mainly encountered with the modeling of the carrier phase observations, where a precise knowledge of the phase center location of the GNSS antennas is a prerequisite for high-precision orbit analyses. Since 5 November 2006 (GPS week 1400), absolute instead of relative values for the phase center location of GNSS receiver and transmitter antennas are adopted in the processing standards of the International GNSS Service (IGS). The absolute phase center modeling is based on robot calibrations for a number of terrestrial receiver antennas, whereas compatible antenna models were subsequently derived for the remaining terrestrial receiver antennas by conversion (from relative corrections), and for the GNSS transmitter antennas by estimation. However, consistent receiver antenna models for space missions such as GRACE and TerraSAR-X, which are equipped with non-geodetic receiver antennas, are only available since a short time from robot calibrations. We use GPS data of the aforementioned LEOs of the year 2007 together with the absolute antenna modeling to assess the presently achieved accuracy from state-of-the-art reduced-dynamic LEO POD strategies for absolute and relative navigation. Near-field multipath and cross-talk with active GPS occultation antennas turn out to be important and significant sources for systematic carrier phase measurement errors that are encountered in the actual spacecraft environments. We assess different methodologies for the in-flight determination of empirical phase pattern corrections for LEO receiver antennas and discuss their impact on POD. By means of independent K-band measurements, we show that zero-difference GRACE orbits can be significantly improved from about 10 to 6 mm K-band standard deviation when taking empirical phase corrections into account, and assess the impact of the corrections on precise baseline estimates and further applications such as gravity field recovery from kinematic LEO positions.