Mini-Arc Orbit Determination for the Geos C Altimetry Experiment

  1. Soren W. Henriksen,
  2. Armando Mancini and
  3. Bernard H. Chovitz
  1. Robert M. L. Baker Jr.

Published Online: 15 MAR 2013

DOI: 10.1029/GM015p0067

The Use of Artificial Satellites for Geodesy

The Use of Artificial Satellites for Geodesy

How to Cite

Baker, R. M. L. (1972) Mini-Arc Orbit Determination for the Geos C Altimetry Experiment, in The Use of Artificial Satellites for Geodesy (eds S. W. Henriksen, A. Mancini and B. H. Chovitz), American Geophysical Union, Washington, D. C.. doi: 10.1029/GM015p0067

Author Information

  1. Computer Sciences Corporation, Systems Division, Los Angeles, California 90045

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 MAR 2013
  2. Published Print: 1 JAN 1972

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9780875900155

Online ISBN: 9781118663646



  • Altimeter-bearing satellite;
  • Mini-arc technique;
  • Orbital fine-structure model;
  • Orbit determination;
  • Satellite altimeter


The problem is, given simultaneous observations of an altimeter-bearing geodetic satellite, from three or more high-precision radar stations, to determine its orbit to submeter accuracy in the presence of perturbations arising from strong, localized gravitational anomalies (such as the Puerto Rico trench). Accuracies within several centimeters based on observational errors of a few centimeters are documented. A new solution to this problem involves the use of an f and g series specialized to the determination of radial distance (pertinent to the satellite altimeter experiment) to process data over a very short arc (e.g., 6 sec to 10 min). Such a short arc is termed a ‘mini arc.’ In this approach, the data batches are connected by dynamics, rather than by the usual curve fit to a power series in time. A nonunity value of the mass factor is introduced to serve as an ‘alias’ for the perturbations that affect the satellite's path during the mini arc. The essence of the mini-arc approach is to include the influence of the far, or relatively lower-order, force field analytically and to solve for the remaining fine structure with accuracies that can approach a few centimeters. The method is neither restricted to high-data-rate sensors nor to simultaneous sensor data; for example, the method could be effective for a single, low-data-rate laser sensor, with centimeter accuracy.