Satellite Observations by Radio Telescopes (SORTS)

  2015-08-25 - 2019-12-31

Satellite observations by radio telescopes have the potential to dramatically improve the frame ties between the International Celestial Reference Frame (ICRF) realized with Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI) observations to extragalactic radio sources and satellite orbits realizing celestial frames dynamically. At the same time, the consistency of the International Terrestrial Reference Frame (ITRF) as a multi-technique solution from VLBI and satellite geodesy observations will benefit substantially, which otherwise solely relies on local tie measurements at co-located terrestrial observing sites. Accurate frame ties are fundamental for precise navigation in space and are a prerequisite for the observation of sea level rise and other global geodynamic processes.

In project SORTS, we cover all technical aspects which are necessary for the realization and analysis of VLBI-like observations to satellites dedicated to such space-tie projects. Now is the optimal time frame for such a project because proposals for satellites which carry a VLBI transponder, laser reflectors and a GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite Systems) receiver like GRASP or MicroGEM are close to acceptance. In project SORTS, we will investigate the application of noise versus modulated signals in terms of signal-to-noise ratio and projected precision of group and phase delays. Next, we will set up a fully realistic scheduling tool taking into account all station- and source-specific restrictions like slewing rates and integration times and we will close all gaps from scheduling to the actual observations of satellites with radio telescopes allowing for automated procedures. Particular emphasis will be put on joint schedules with alternate observations to quasars and satellites. To generate group and phase delays from the observations by radio telescopes to satellites at low Earth orbits, we will adapt all models in the correlation software. Finally, we will expand existing geodetic analysis software for the purpose of optimally combining quasar and satellite observations. With this software, we will use realistically simulated observations to determine orbital arcs from various types of radio telescope observations and we will run series of Monte-Carlo simulations to provide feedback to earlier steps in the processing chain like the scheduling and to assess the impact on the frames ties.

Project SORTS is a joint endeavor of the Vienna University of Technology and the University of Bonn with the strengths of both groups greatly complementing each other. Furthermore, in close co-operation with partners at the VLBI stations at Wettzell in Germany and Onsala in Sweden, we will be able to validate our developments with real observations already at a very early stage, for example with VLBI observations to GNSS satellites.


Project manager Financiers
  •   Fonds zur Förderung der wissenschaftlichen Forschung (FWF)
  •   Universität Bonn