Vol 19, No 3

A new method to determine the gravity field of small bodies from line-of-sight acceleration data

Nian-Chuan Jian, Jian-Guo Yan, Jin-Song Ping, Jean-Pierre Barriot, J.Alexis P. Rodriguez


Abstract We present a new method to derive line-of-sight acceleration observables from spacecraft radio tracking data. The observables can be used to estimate the mass and gravity of a natural satellite as a space-craft flyby. The corresponding observation model adapts to one-way and two/three-way tracking modes. As a test case for method validation and application, we estimated the mass and degree two gravity field for the Martian moon Phobos using simulated tracking data when the spacecraft Mars Express flew by Phobos on 2013 December 29. We have a few real tracking data during flyby and they will be used to confirm raw data simulation. The main purpose of this paper is to demonstrate the method of line-of-sight acceleration reduction from raw tracking data and the feasibility to estimate mass and gravity of a natural satellite using this type of observable. This novel method is potentially applicable to planet and asteroid gravity field studies combined with Doppler tracking data.


Keywords line of sight acceleration — Doppler — celestial mechanics

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