Facts and figures

Full name: Gravity field and steady-state Ocean Circulation Explorer

Launched: 17 March 2009

Duration: After 4 years and 8 months orbiting Earth, the mission came to an end on 11 November 2013 - far exceeding its 20-month design life

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

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.

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