Troposphere Calibration Techniques for Deep Space Probe Tracking

Graziani, Alberto (2010) Troposphere Calibration Techniques for Deep Space Probe Tracking, [Dissertation thesis], Alma Mater Studiorum Università di Bologna. Dottorato di ricerca in Disegno e metodi dell'ingegneria industriale, 22 Ciclo.
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Ground-based Earth troposphere calibration systems play an important role in planetary exploration, especially to carry out radio science experiments aimed at the estimation of planetary gravity fields. In these experiments, the main observable is the spacecraft (S/C) range rate, measured from the Doppler shift of an electromagnetic wave transmitted from ground, received by the spacecraft and coherently retransmitted back to ground. If the solar corona and interplanetary plasma noise is already removed from Doppler data, the Earth troposphere remains one of the main error sources in tracking observables. Current Earth media calibration systems at NASA’s Deep Space Network (DSN) stations are based upon a combination of weather data and multidirectional, dual frequency GPS measurements acquired at each station complex. In order to support Cassini’s cruise radio science experiments, a new generation of media calibration systems were developed, driven by the need to achieve the goal of an end-to-end Allan deviation of the radio link in the order of 3×〖10〗^(-15) at 1000 s integration time. The future ESA’s Bepi Colombo mission to Mercury carries scientific instrumentation for radio science experiments (a Ka-band transponder and a three-axis accelerometer) which, in combination with the S/C telecommunication system (a X/X/Ka transponder) will provide the most advanced tracking system ever flown on an interplanetary probe. Current error budget for MORE (Mercury Orbiter Radioscience Experiment) allows the residual uncalibrated troposphere to contribute with a value of 8×〖10〗^(-15) to the two-way Allan deviation at 1000 s integration time. The current standard ESA/ESTRACK calibration system is based on a combination of surface meteorological measurements and mathematical algorithms, capable to reconstruct the Earth troposphere path delay, leaving an uncalibrated component of about 1-2% of the total delay. In order to satisfy the stringent MORE requirements, the short time-scale variations of the Earth troposphere water vapor content must be calibrated at ESA deep space antennas (DSA) with more precise and stable instruments (microwave radiometers). In parallel to this high performance instruments, ESA ground stations should be upgraded to media calibration systems at least capable to calibrate both troposphere path delay components (dry and wet) at sub-centimetre level, in order to reduce S/C navigation uncertainties. The natural choice is to provide a continuous troposphere calibration by processing GNSS data acquired at each complex by dual frequency receivers already installed for station location purposes. The work presented here outlines the troposphere calibration technique to support both Deep Space probe navigation and radio science experiments. After an introduction to deep space tracking techniques, observables and error sources, in Chapter 2 the troposphere path delay is widely investigated, reporting the estimation techniques and the state of the art of the ESA and NASA troposphere calibrations. Chapter 3 deals with an analysis of the status and the performances of the NASA Advanced Media Calibration (AMC) system referred to the Cassini data analysis. Chapter 4 describes the current release of a developed GNSS software (S/W) to estimate the troposphere calibration to be used for ESA S/C navigation purposes. During the development phase of the S/W a test campaign has been undertaken in order to evaluate the S/W performances. A description of the campaign and the main results are reported in Chapter 5. Chapter 6 presents a preliminary analysis of microwave radiometers to be used to support radio science experiments. The analysis has been carried out considering radiometric measurements of the ESA/ESTEC instruments installed in Cabauw (NL) and compared with the requirements of MORE. Finally, Chapter 7 summarizes the results obtained and defines some key technical aspects to be evaluated and taken into account for the development phase of future instrumentation.


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