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Radio Science

On the determination and investigation of the terrestrial ionospheric refractive indices using GEOS-3/ATS-6 satellite-to-satellite tracking data


  • Anthony S. Liu


When the radio link between two satellites (GEOS-3/ATS-6) is intercepted by the Earth's ionosphere and neutral atmosphere, a change in the Doppler frequency results. Travel through the atmosphere causes the Doppler phase to be advanced in the ionosphere's portion and retarded in the neutral portion of the atmosphere. Analysis of the shortening and lengthening of the phase of the Satellite-to-Satellite Tracking (SST) data that passed within 40–700 km above the Earth's surface during its ATS-6 to GEOS-3 to ATS-6 path, caused by the atmosphere, results in refractivity versus height profiles. The SST Doppler data were used directly to adjust the GEOS-3 orbit. Perturbation from the Moon, Sun, and a 15th-order/degree Earth gravity field were included in the orbit solution. This orbit was continued through the occultation period and a model ionosphere was estimated by a least-squares adjustment of the Chapman ionosphere parameters from the SST data residuals. The refractivity profile obtained by this model ionosphere was compared to a refractivity profile obtained by a direct integral inversion of the SST data residuals. Systematic differences between the two methods were caused by orbital errors, which propagated into the solution. The SST data yielded refractive index profiles in a novel economical manner because no additional or special on-board equipment were required.

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