Facts and figures
Full name: Gravity field and steady-state Ocean Circulation Explorer
Launched: 17 March 2009
Launcher: Rockot (with Breeze-KM upper stage) by Eurockot Launch Services GmbH
Launch site: Plesetsk Cosmodrome, Russia
Mission control: European Space Operations Centre (ESOC), Darmstadt, Germany
Data download: to Kiruna (Sweden) and Svalbard (Norway) ground stations
Processing & archiving: ESA’s Earth observation centre in Italy (ESRIN) and the distributed High-level Processing Facilities
Number of instruments: 3
Nominal life: 20 months
Mission cost: €350 million (including launcher and operations)
Orbit: about 260 km altitude, polar, Sun-synchronous
Mass: 1100 kg
Size: 5.3 m long, about 1 m body diameter
Propulsion tank: 40 kg of xenon
Geoid accuracy: 1 - 2 cm vertically with 100 km spatial resolution
Gravitational acceleration at Earth’s surface is about 9.8 m/s², varying from a minimum of 9.788 m/s² at the equator to a maximum of 9.838 m/s² at the poles.
The six accelerometers (three pairs in three orthogonal directions) are some 100 times more sensitive than any previously flown in space.
Planning and construction of the GOCE spacecraft involved 45 European companies led by Thales Alenia Space.