Journal of Geodesy

, Volume 84, Issue 6, pp 343–354 | Cite as

Geodetic constraints from multi-beam laser altimeter crossovers

  • Erwan MazaricoEmail author
  • G. A. Neumann
  • D. D. Rowlands
  • D. E. Smith
Original Article


The round-trip travel time measurements made by spacecraft laser altimeters are primarily used to construct topographic maps of the target body. The accuracy of the calculated bounce point locations of the laser pulses depends on the quality of the spacecraft trajectory reconstruction. The trajectory constraints from Doppler and range radio tracking data can be supplemented by altimetric “crossovers”, to greatly improve the reconstruction of the spacecraft trajectory. Crossovers have been used successfully in the past (e.g., Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter on Mars Global Surveyor), but only with single-beam altimeters. The same algorithms can be used with a multi-beam laser altimeter, but we present a method using the unique cross-track topographic information present in the multi-beam data. Those crossovers are especially adapted to shallow (small angle) intersections, as the overlapping area is large, reducing the inherent ambiguities of single-beam data in that situation. We call those “swath crossovers”. They prove particularly useful in the case of polar-orbiting spacecraft over slowly rotating bodies, because all the non-polar crossovers have small intersection angles. To demonstrate this method, we perform a simplified simulation based on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) and its five-beam Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter. We show that swath crossovers over one lunar month can independently, from geometry alone, recover the imposed orbital perturbations with great accuracy (5 m horizontal, < 1 m vertical, about one order of magnitude smaller than the imposed perturbations). We also present new types of constraints that can be derived from the swath crossovers, and designed to be used in a precision orbit determination setup. In future work, we will use such multi-beam altimetric constraints with data from LRO.


Laser altimeter Crossover Orbit determination Moon Multi-beam 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Erwan Mazarico
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • G. A. Neumann
    • 1
  • D. D. Rowlands
    • 1
  • D. E. Smith
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.NASA Goddard Space Flight CenterPlanetary Geodynamics LaboratoryGreenbeltUSA
  2. 2.NASA GSFC, NASA Postdoctral ProgramOak Ridge Associated UniversitiesOak RidgeUSA
  3. 3.Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary SciencesMassachussetts Institute of TechnologyCambridgeUSA

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