GOCE will gather data to map the Earth's gravity field for around 20 months. In order to turn the raw data into products that are suitable for users worldwide, there are a number of steps that have to be taken.
This part of the mission involves the so-called ground segment, which is essentially made up of three main components – mission control, data processing centres & long-term data storage and services to provide data to users.
GOCE is controlled and operated by the Flight Operations Segment at ESA's European Space Operations Centre (ESOC), in Darmstadt, Germany. From here, the health and status of GOCE is monitored and commands are generated and sent to the satellite.
Raw data are downlinked from the GOCE spacecraft to the ground stations in Kiruna, northern Sweden, and on Svalbard. Once the data are received at the ground stations, they are immediately forwarded to the Flight Operations Segment, which then sends the data to the Payload Data Ground Segment at ESA's European Space Research Institute (ESRIN), in Frascati, Italy.
Here, the data are transformed from telemetry to level-1b products – the time series of converted, calibrated and validated measurements taken by GOCE.
These level-1b data are subsequently processed to level-2 – the fundamental products that will be available to users worldwide – through the High-level Processing Facility.
Through ESA, 10 European universities and research facilities with complementary expertise in gravity and geodesy-related science fields will operate the processing facility throughout the lifetime of the GOCE mission.
All products will be available free of charge to scientific and non-commercial users.