WP3: Laser Ranging (Research and technological development)


The tracking of spacecraft by Laser ranging or VLBI are considered techniques of the future with high potential for application in planetary missions. These novel techniques aim at extremely precise cm-level spacecraft orbit reconstructions for the modelling of parameters in planetary geodesy and dynamics (e.g. gravity field and rotational models). Every effort must be made to analyse all existing tracking data of this new type. The goal of this WP3 is to obtain work experience and estimate the potential and limits of trhese new techniques.

Description of work (possibly broken down into tasks), and role of participants

Task 3.1: Information collection on laser tracking, VLBI and Deep Space Networks

Survey into the specific performance of existing and future systems. Assess the availability, quality, performance parameters, etc. Combination of litterature study and site visits. Task carried out by TUD.

Task 3.2: Inventory of existing and required tools

Assessment of software packages to reduce various types of tracking data into solutions of satellites trajectories, both for simulated and existing data. Task carried out by TUD.

Task 3.3: Selection and modification of prefered tool

Based on the outcome of the former tasks a single tool will be selected for further study. It is expected that this tool will have generic capabilities wich need to be modified and fine-tuned for the envisioned application (trajectorie determination). Task carried out by TUD.

Task 3.4: Performance studies

Application of the selected tool to assess the quality of single-technique and multi-technique trajectory solutions. Etablish quality estimates of the simulated and actual results. Task carried out by TUD.

Task 3.5: Demonstration project

Validation and analysis of LRO Laser Tracking Data (LTD): The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) was launched on June 18, 2009 and is carrying out its nominal mapping mission. The spacecraft is equipped with a unique Laser receiver which can be targeted by terrestrial Laser ranging stations (such as Wettzell in Germany and many others) for highly accurate cm-level range measurements to the space craft. In this package, we will carry out a validation of these novel model of data and make comparisonss withe the nominal spacecraft orbit determined from conventional radio tracking data. The data constitutes a unique asset to refine the orbit of LRO and possibly the Lunar gravity field. The work package is complementary to a subtask within EuroPlaNet (funded under FP7) which includes the participation suc tracking campaigns. Task carried out by TUD.