Satellite-Satellite Tracking for Estimating Geopotential Coefficients

  1. Soren W. Henriksen,
  2. Armando Mancini and
  3. Bernard H. Chovitz
  1. C. F. Martin1,
  2. T. V. Martin1 and
  3. David. E. Smith2

Published Online: 15 MAR 2013

DOI: 10.1029/GM015p0139

The Use of Artificial Satellites for Geodesy

The Use of Artificial Satellites for Geodesy

How to Cite

Martin, C. F., Martin, T. V. and Smith, David. E. (1972) Satellite-Satellite Tracking for Estimating Geopotential Coefficients, 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/GM015p0139

Author Information

  1. 1

    Wolf Research and Development Corporation, Riverdale, Maryland 20840

  2. 2

    Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland 20771

Publication History

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

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9780875900155

Online ISBN: 9781118663646



  • Artificial earth satellites;
  • Continuous tracking;
  • Geopotential coefficients;
  • Mathematical technique;
  • Satellite-satellite tracking


The tracking of artificial earth satellites by other earth satellites offers the potential for increased accuracy in estimating orbit and geopotential coefficients. The improvement in accuracy is due primarily to the near-continuous coverage possible, the addition of new geometry between tracker and tracked satellite, and the decrease in sensitivity to errors in ground-station position. This paper presents the results of simulation studies of tracking of low-altitude satellites by a high-altitude satellite using range measurements between satellites. The high-altitude satellite is tracked by ground-based range trackers. The low-altitude satellites are tracked only by the high-altitude satellites. Orbital elements for one tracking satellite and four tracked low-altitude satellites are estimated, along with a set of low degree and order geopotential coefficients. Estimation of geopotential coefficients of low degree and order is shown to be considerably more accurate using satellite-to-satellite tracking than using ground-based tracking. The use of data from one high-altitude satellite tracking four low-altitude satellites in a range of inclinations is shown to produce geopotential coefficient estimates with smaller errors than presently exist in individual coefficients or would be obtained using ground-based tracking of the same satellites. One week of continuous tracking was assumed for this simulation.