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Inside GOCE

A technological achievement

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ESA / Applications / Observing the Earth / GOCE

With its unique design, GOCE demonstrates Europe’s excellence in both engineering and science through the realisation of one of the most challenging space missions to date.

The GOCE payload includes:

  • a gradiometer. With its three pairs of accelerometers, this state-of-the-art instrument will measure gravity with unprecedented accuracy. Within its measurement band, each accelerometer can detect accelerations to within 1 part in 10 000 000 000 000 of Earth’s surface gravity.


  • a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver. To ensure such precise measurements, GOCE’s own position must be precisely known at all times. The positions provided via GPS will also supply gravity information through analysis of the perturbations in GOCE’s orbit.


  • an advanced drag compensation and attitude-control system based on ion-propulsion technology. The system uses electrically-charged xenon to create a gentle thrust. It continually generates tiny forces between 1 and 20 millinewtons (mN), depending on how much drag the satellite experiences as it orbits Earth.


  • A Laser Retro Reflector. This will enable tracking by terrestrial lasers.

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