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The use of satellite data in the detailed study and precise measurement of the Earth's geoid in order to improve our understanding both of the Earth's interior, and dynamic topography of the world's oceans.

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Orbiting on the edge yields insight into space weather

23 October 2013

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ESA's GOCE gravity satellite may be in its final weeks in orbit around Earth, but some of the most exciting scientific analysis of the mission's data is only just starting.

Carrying the first 3D gravity gradiometer in space and orbiting lower than any other research satellite, GOCE has spent more than four years measuring variations in Earth's gravity with unrivalled precision.

The result is the most accurate model of the 'geoid' ever produced, which is being used to understand ocean circulation, sea level, ice dynamics and Earth's interior.

To gain the best possible gravity measurements, the sleek aerodynamic satellite was designed to fly in an extremely low orbit of 255 km above Earth - about 500 km lower than most Earth observation satellites.

Last year, low fuel consumption and relatively quiet solar activity allowed GOCE to be lowered to 235 km, further improving its sensitivity to Earth's gravity and thus producing even more accurate data.

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