The gravity field and steady-state ocean circulation explorer (GOCE) spacecraft for the European Space Agency (ESA) has completed its in-orbit commissioning and calibration phase after passing an in-flight test review.

GOCE is the first satellite of ESA’s earth explorer programme, which will provide the first accurate 3D mapping of the Earth’s gravitational field.

The Thales Alenia-built satellite features an aerodynamic design for a low-altitude, drag-free environment for the world’s first gradiometer.

The functionalities of the satellite and the payload have been fully demonstrated and early measurements have been successfully correlated with existing models of the gravity field, enabling a higher level of spatial detail.

GOCE will map the geoid with an increased spatial resolution and accuracy that will open up new domains of geophysical research.

The 3D mapping of the geoid is expected to provide a global reference for oceanographic observation, study of ice sheets and satellite tracking and the unification of the world’s altitude measurements.

GOCE will also map density variations in the higher levels of the earth’s mantle.

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The measurement phases could be extended into the eclipse periods as could be the overall mission duration.

The first measurement campaign, which began in September 2009, will last until March 2010.