Bandwidth correction of Swarm GPS carrier phase observations for improved orbit and gravity field determination

GPS Solut. 2021;25(2):70. doi: 10.1007/s10291-021-01107-0. Epub 2021 Mar 9.


Gravity fields derived from GPS tracking of the three Swarm satellites have shown artifacts near the geomagnetic equator, where the carrier phase tracking on the L2 frequency is unable to follow rapid ionospheric path delay changes due to a limited tracking loop bandwidth of only 0.25 Hz in the early years of the mission. Based on the knowledge of the loop filter design, an analytical approach is developed to recover the original L2 signal from the observed carrier phase through inversion of the loop transfer function. Precise orbit determination and gravity field solutions are used to assess the quality of the correction. We show that the a posteriori RMS of the ionosphere-free GPS phase observations for a reduced-dynamic orbit determination can be reduced from 3 to 2 mm while keeping up to 7% more data in the outlier screening compared to uncorrected observations. We also show that artifacts in the kinematic orbit and gravity field solution near the geomagnetic equator can be substantially reduced. The analytical correction is able to mitigate the equatorial artifacts. However, the analytical correction is not as successful compared to the down-weighting of problematic GPS data used in earlier studies. In contrast to the weighting approaches, up to 9-10% more kinematic positions can be retained for the heavily disturbed month March 2015 and also stronger signals for gravity field estimation in the equatorial regions are obtained, as can be seen in the reduced error degree variances of the gravity field estimation. The presented approach may also be applied to other low earth orbit missions, provided that the GPS receivers offer a sufficiently high data rate compared to the tracking loop bandwidth, and provided that the basic loop-filter parameters are known.

Keywords: Gravity field determination; Ionospheric artifacts; Loop filter; Orbit determination; Tracking loop.