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European satellite to map Earth's gravity as never before

Artist's concept of GOCE in orbit. ESA image

PARIS (BNS): With just few days left for the lift off of European Space Agency’s Gravity field and steady-state Ocean Explorer (GOCE) spacecraft, preparations are on in full swing. The lift off is scheduled for March 16 at 15:21 CET (14:21 GMT, 17:21 local time).

GOCE is the first earth explorer mission and will map global variations in the gravity field with extreme detail and accuracy. “This will result in a unique model of the geoid, which is the surface of equal gravitational potential defined by the gravity field,” the ESA said.

The agency said that this model of the gravity field was crucial for deriving accurate measurements of ocean circulation and sea level change, both of which are affected by climate change. GOCE-derived data are also much needed to understand more about processes occurring inside Earth and for use in practical applications such as surveying and levelling.

The ESA said that the GOCE spacecraft, encased in the protective half-shells of the launcher fairing, has been transported from the clean room and installed in the launch tower at the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia. It said that it would soon be hoisted to the Upper Composite to the seventh floor of the service tower where it will be joined to the rest of the Rocket launcher.

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