Journal of Geodesy

, Volume 86, Issue 12, pp 1083–1095 | Cite as

Intersatellite laser ranging instrument for the GRACE follow-on mission

  • B. S. Sheard
  • G. Heinzel
  • K. Danzmann
  • D. A. Shaddock
  • W. M. Klipstein
  • W. M. Folkner
Original Article


The Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) has demonstrated that low–low satellite-to-satellite tracking enables monitoring the time variations of the Earth’s gravity field on a global scale, in particular those caused by mass-transport within the hydrosphere. Due to the importance of long-term continued monitoring of the variations of the Earth’s gravitational field and the limited lifetime of GRACE, a follow-on mission is currently planned to be launched in 2017. In order to minimise risk and the time to launch, the follow-on mission will be basically a rebuild of GRACE with microwave ranging as the primary instrument for measuring changes of the intersatellite distance. Laser interferometry has been proposed as a method to achieve improved ranging precision for future GRACE-like missions and is therefore foreseen to be included as demonstrator experiment in the follow-on mission now under development. This paper presents the top-level architecture of an interferometric laser ranging system designed to demonstrate the technology which can also operate in parallel with the microwave ranging system of the GRACE follow-on mission.


GRACE Intersatellite ranging Laser interferometry 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • B. S. Sheard
    • 1
  • G. Heinzel
    • 1
  • K. Danzmann
    • 1
  • D. A. Shaddock
    • 2
  • W. M. Klipstein
    • 3
  • W. M. Folkner
    • 3
  1. 1.Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute) and Institute for Gravitational Physics, Leibniz Universität HannoverHanoverGermany
  2. 2.Department of Quantum ScienceThe Australian National UniversityActonAustralia
  3. 3.Jet Propulsion LaboratoryCalifornia Institute of TechnologyPasadenaUSA

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