In the early hours of this morning, ESA’s Gravity field and steady-state Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE) satellite re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere on a descending orbit pass that extended across Siberia, the western Pacific Ocean, the eastern Indian Ocean and Antarctica.
The QinetiQ Ion Thruster on GOCE has been operating continuously since Sept 2009 and spent in the region of 4yrs operation, thought to be a record for the longest Ion thruster operation in Space.
GOCE has mapped variations in the Earth’s gravity with unrivalled precision. The result is the most accurate shape of the ‘geoid’ – a hypothetical global ocean at rest – ever produced, which is being used to understand ocean circulation, sea level, ice dynamics and Earth’s interior.
The GOCE Satellite (credit ESA)
New GOCE geoid (credit ESA)
QinetiQ’s Ion Thruster