GPS Solutions

, Volume 12, Issue 3, pp 211–225 | Cite as

Characterization of periodic variations in the GPS satellite clocks

  • Kenneth L. Senior
  • Jim R. Ray
  • Ronald L. Beard
Original Article


The clock products of the International Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) Service (IGS) are used to characterize the timing performance of the GPS satellites. Using 5-min and 30-s observational samples and focusing only on the sub-daily regime, approximate power-law stochastic processes are found. The Block IIA Rb and Cs clocks obey predominantly random walk phase (or white frequency) noise processes. The Rb clocks are up to nearly an order of magnitude more stable and show a flicker phase noise component over intervals shorter than about 100 s. Due to the onboard Time Keeping System in the newer Block IIR and IIR-M satellites, their Rb clocks behave in a more complex way: as an apparent random walk phase process up to about 100 s and then changing to flicker phase up to a few thousand seconds. Superposed on this random background, periodic signals have been detected in all clock types at four harmonic frequencies, n × (2.0029 ± 0.0005) cycles per day (24 h coordinated universal time or UTC), for n = 1, 2, 3, and 4. The equivalent fundamental period is 11.9826 ± 0.0030 h, which surprisingly differs from the reported mean GPS orbital period of 11.9659 ± 0.0007 h by 60 ± 11 s. We cannot account for this apparent discrepancy but note that a clear relationship between the periodic signals and the orbital dynamics is evidenced for some satellites by modulations of the spectral amplitudes with eclipse season. All four harmonics are much smaller for the IIR and IIR-M satellites than for the older blocks. Awareness of the periodic variations can be used to improve the clock modeling, including for interpolation of tabulated IGS products for higher-rate GPS positioning and for predictions in real-time applications. This is especially true for high-accuracy uses, but could also benefit the standard GPS operational products. The observed stochastic properties of each satellite clock type are used to estimate the growth of interpolation and prediction errors with time interval.


IGS GPS satellite clocks Harmonic analysis Oblateness (J2Relativistic corrections 



The authors gratefully thank Jan Kouba (Natural Resources Canada), Kristine Larson (University of Colorado), and Arthur Dorsey (Lockheed Martin Corp.) for helpful discussions and critiques. The products of the IGS and its analysis centers have been indispensable.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kenneth L. Senior
    • 1
  • Jim R. Ray
    • 2
  • Ronald L. Beard
    • 1
  1. 1.US Naval Research LaboratoryWashingtonUSA
  2. 2.NOAA/National Geodetic SurveySilver SpringUSA

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