Spacecraft Doppler tracking: Noise budget and accuracy achievable in precision radio science observations

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Abstract

[1] We discuss noise in Doppler tracking of deep space probes and provide a detailed noise model for Doppler radio science experiments. The most sensitive current experiments achieve fractional frequency fluctuation noise of about 3 × 10−15 at 1000-s integration time, corresponding to better than 1 micron per second velocity noise. Our noise model focuses primarily on the Fourier range ≈10−4–1 Hz, but we briefly discuss noise in lower-frequency observations. We indicate applications of the noise model to experiment planning, identify phenomena limiting current Doppler sensitivity, and discuss the prospects for significant sensitivity improvements.

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