Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


GOCE gravity mission back in action

ESA’s GOCE gravity mission has recovered from a glitch that prevented the satellite from sending its flow of scientific data to the ground. News of the recovery comes earlier than expected, thanks to the fervent efforts of a team of experts.

The recovery follows a serious communications malfunction on 8 July, when the Gravity field and steady-state Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE) satellite suddenly failed to downlink scientific data to its receiving stations.

Extensive investigations by experts from ESA and industry revealed that the issue was almost certainly related to a communication link between the processor module and the telemetry modules of the main computer. These telemetry modules are situated between the processor board and the transmitters, forming a vital part of the onboard data handling and communications system.

Recovery from the situation came after software patches gained access to troubleshooting information via the slow trickle of data that was still reaching the GOCE ground stations. This new information allowed the team to develop an understanding of the state of all the onboard systems. As part of the action plan, the temperature of the floor hosting the computers was raised by some 7°C – resulting in restoration of normal communications.

Plans are in place should the communications system experience the same glitch in the future. Software patches are now being developed to allow the two onboard computers to work in unison.

Volker Liebig, Director of ESA's Earth Observation Programmes, said, "We are very glad that one of the most innovative missions of ESA is back on track. I would like to congratulate and thank the teams from ESA and especially industry.

"I often get questions from journalists as to whether ESA satellites are not over-designed, with their redundancies and long lifetimes. This case shows how important it is to have these margins in case of problems. Consequently, we can now deliver scientists the full scientific programme."

The issue is not the first hiccup that GOCE has experienced since its launch in March 2009. In February 2010, a chip problem in the main computer meant that operators had to switch over to the satellite's backup computer system. There is, however, at present no evidence of any relationship between the two problems that have affected GOCE.
Orbiting through the outer remnants of Earth's atmosphere to sense the strongest gravity signal possible, GOCE is the most advanced gravity mission to date, designed to map variations in Earth's gravity field with extreme detail and accuracy.

Since becoming operational in September 2009, GOCE has already delivered two-thirds of the gravity data expected from the mission. Consequently, scientists worldwide already have a huge and immensely valuable dataset that will redefine our understanding of Earth's gravity field.
Moreover, with GOCE having regained its full capacity, it is hoped to continue the mission far beyond the end of the designated lifetime in 2011 – the satellite operations have, so far, required much less fuel than expected.

Rune Floberghagen, ESA's GOCE Mission Manager, said, "On 6 September the main instrument, the gradiometer, which measures the spatial variations in the gravity field in extreme detail, has also been switched on and shown to be fully functional.

"With everything back in proper working order, the satellite is now being gently brought back down to its operational status and altitude. This should be achieved before the end of September."

Robert Meisner | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Sharpening the X-ray view of the nanocosm
23.03.2018 | Changchun Institute of Optics, Fine Mechanics and Physics

nachricht Drug or duplicate?
23.03.2018 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Festkörperphysik IAF

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Space observation with radar to secure Germany's space infrastructure

Satellites in near-Earth orbit are at risk due to the steady increase in space debris. But their mission in the areas of telecommunications, navigation or weather forecasts is essential for society. Fraunhofer FHR therefore develops radar-based systems which allow the detection, tracking and cataloging of even the smallest particles of debris. Satellite operators who have access to our data are in a better position to plan evasive maneuvers and prevent destructive collisions. From April, 25-29 2018, Fraunhofer FHR and its partners will exhibit the complementary radar systems TIRA and GESTRA as well as the latest radar techniques for space observation across three stands at the ILA Berlin.

The "traffic situation" in space is very tense: the Earth is currently being orbited not only by countless satellites but also by a large volume of space...

Im Focus: Researchers Discover New Anti-Cancer Protein

An international team of researchers has discovered a new anti-cancer protein. The protein, called LHPP, prevents the uncontrolled proliferation of cancer cells in the liver. The researchers led by Prof. Michael N. Hall from the Biozentrum, University of Basel, report in “Nature” that LHPP can also serve as a biomarker for the diagnosis and prognosis of liver cancer.

The incidence of liver cancer, also known as hepatocellular carcinoma, is steadily increasing. In the last twenty years, the number of cases has almost doubled...

Im Focus: Researchers at Fraunhofer monitor re-entry of Chinese space station Tiangong-1

In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.

Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...

Im Focus: Alliance „OLED Licht Forum“ – Key partner for OLED lighting solutions

Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.

They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

New solar solutions for sustainable buildings and cities

23.03.2018 | Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

For graphite pellets, just add elbow grease

23.03.2018 | Materials Sciences

Unique communication strategy discovered in stem cell pathway controlling plant growth

23.03.2018 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

Sharpening the X-ray view of the nanocosm

23.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>