Surveys in Geophysics

, Volume 34, Issue 2, pp 141–163 | Cite as

Earth System Mass Transport Mission (e.motion): A Concept for Future Earth Gravity Field Measurements from Space

  • I. PanetEmail author
  • J. Flury
  • R. Biancale
  • T. Gruber
  • J. Johannessen
  • M. R. van den Broeke
  • T. van Dam
  • P. Gegout
  • C. W. Hughes
  • G. Ramillien
  • I. Sasgen
  • L. Seoane
  • M. Thomas


In the last decade, satellite gravimetry has been revealed as a pioneering technique for mapping mass redistributions within the Earth system. This fact has allowed us to have an improved understanding of the dynamic processes that take place within and between the Earth’s various constituents. Results from the Gravity Recovery And Climate Experiment (GRACE) mission have revolutionized Earth system research and have established the necessity for future satellite gravity missions. In 2010, a comprehensive team of European and Canadian scientists and industrial partners proposed the e.motion (Earth system mass transport mission) concept to the European Space Agency. The proposal is based on two tandem satellites in a pendulum orbit configuration at an altitude of about 370 km, carrying a laser interferometer inter-satellite ranging instrument and improved accelerometers. In this paper, we review and discuss a wide range of mass signals related to the global water cycle and to solid Earth deformations that were outlined in the e.motion proposal. The technological and mission challenges that need to be addressed in order to detect these signals are emphasized within the context of the scientific return. This analysis presents a broad perspective on the value and need for future satellite gravimetry missions.


Satellite gravity Earth system Mass transport Global water cycle Earth deformations 



This paper is based on the comprehensive work and analysis realized to prepare the e.motion proposal, in response to the European Space Agency Call for proposals Earth Explorer Opportunity Mission EE-8. As such, the results presented here greatly benefited from numerous inputs and discussions with the members of the e.motion science team, listed in Appendix 3. We gratefully thank them for their contributions. Industrial support was provided from SpaceTech GmbH Immenstaad and from the Office National d’Études et de Recherches Aérospatiales. We thank Michel Diament for helping us to improve this manuscript. We are grateful to the Editor, Anny Cazenave, and two anonymous reviewers, for their suggestions that contributed to improve this manuscript. Work by Isabelle Panet, Richard Biancale, Pascal Gegout, and Guillaume Ramillien was supported by CNES (Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales) through the TOSCA committee. This is IPGP contribution number 3344.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • I. Panet
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • J. Flury
    • 3
  • R. Biancale
    • 4
  • T. Gruber
    • 5
  • J. Johannessen
    • 6
  • M. R. van den Broeke
    • 7
  • T. van Dam
    • 8
  • P. Gegout
    • 12
  • C. W. Hughes
    • 9
  • G. Ramillien
    • 12
  • I. Sasgen
    • 10
  • L. Seoane
    • 11
    • 12
  • M. Thomas
    • 10
  1. 1.Laboratoire LAREG, Institut National de l’Information Géographique et Forestière, GRGS Université Paris DiderotParis Cedex 13France
  2. 2.Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris (IPGP, Sorbonne Paris Cité, UMR 7154 CNRS, Université Paris Diderot)ParisFrance
  3. 3.Centre for Quantum Engineering and Space-Time ResearchLeibnitz Universität HannoverHannoverGermany
  4. 4.CNES/GRGS, Géoscience Environnement Toulouse, UMR 5563 CNRS, Observatoire Midi-PyrénéesToulouseFrance
  5. 5.Institut für Astronomische und Physikalische GeodäsieTechnische Universität MünchenMunichGermany
  6. 6.Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing CenterBergenNorway
  7. 7.Institute for Marine and Atmospheric ResearchUtrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands
  8. 8.Faculté des Sciences, de la Technologie et de la CommunicationUniversité du LuxembourgLuxembourgLuxembourg
  9. 9.National Oceanography CentreLiverpoolUK
  10. 10.German Research Centre for Geosciences (GFZ)PotsdamGermany
  11. 11.Université Paul Sabatier, GET, UMR 5563 CNRS, GRGS, Observatoire Midi-PyrénéesToulouseFrance
  12. 12.Géoscience Environnement Toulouse, UMR 5563 CNRSToulouseFrance

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