Geodetic VLBI for precise orbit determination of Earth satellites: a simulation study
Journal of Geodesy
Recent efforts of tracking low Earth orbit and medium Earth orbit (MEO) satellites using geodetic very long baseline interferometry (VLBI) raise questions on the potential of this novel observation concept for space geodesy. Therefore, we carry out extensive Monte Carlo simulations in order to investigate the feasibility of geodetic VLBI for precise orbit determination (POD) of MEO satellites and assess the impact of quality and quantity of satellite observations on the derived geodetic
... rs. The MEO satellites are represented in our study by LAGEOS-1/-2 and a set of Galileo satellites. The concept is studied on the basis of 3-day solutions in which satellite observations are included into real schedules of the continuous geodetic VLBI campaign 2017 (CONT17) as well as simulated schedules concerning the next-generation VLBI system, known as the VLBI Global Observing System (VGOS). Our results indicate that geodetic VLBI can perform on a comparable level as other space-geodetic techniques concerning POD of MEO satellites. For an assumed satellite observation precision better than 14.1 mm (47 ps), an average 3D orbit precision of 2.0 cm and 6.3 cm is found for schedules including LAGEOS-1/-2 and Galileo satellites, respectively. Moreover, geocenter offsets, which were so far out of scope for the geodetic VLBI analysis, are close to the detection limit for the simulations concerning VGOS observations of Galileo satellites, with the potential to further enhance the results. Concerning the estimated satellite orbits, VGOS leads to an average precision improvement of 80% with respect to legacy VLBI. In absolute terms and for satellite observation precision of 14.1 mm (47 ps), this corresponds to an average value of 17 mm and 7 mm concerning the 3D orbit scatter and precision of geocenter components, respectively. As shown in this study, a poor satellite geometry can degrade the derived Earth rotation parameters and VLBI station positions, compared to the quasar-only reference schedules. Therefore, careful scheduling of both quasar and satellite observations should be performed in order to fully benefit from this novel observation concept.