Space Geodesy Facility

Lead Research Organisation: NERC British Geological Survey

Abstract

The NERC Space Geodesy Facility operates multiple geodetic techniques to make a major contribution to the formation of a highly-precise global reference frame and supports satellite missions to study the dynamic Earth. Located near to the village of Herstmonceux in East Sussex, the NERC Space Geodesy Facility (SGF) is actively supporting geodetic and geophysical science. The SGF makes range observations to enable orbit determination for scientific satellite missions that study the oceans, ice sheets, land mass, gravity field and climate of the Earth in order to better understand the processes at work. The SGF is part of the International Laser Ranging Service (ILRS) and International GNSS Service (IGS) networks. It is appointed by the ILRS as one of the eight ILRS Analysis Centres and was awarded by the Global Geodetic Observing System (GGOS) the status of 'New Technology SLR Site'. The SGF is a Research Facility of the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) with additional funding from the Ministry of Defence.
 
Description To address critical societal issues including the reality and magnitude of global sea level rise, the global reference frame must be determined by geodetic observatories at mm levels of accuracy. Work carried out by SGF researchers at Herstmonceux and international collaborators shows that the SGF satellite range data is amongst the best in the world. Further, there remain significant systematic range errors at some of the major observatories in the global network. The work should drive improvements at those observatories.
Exploitation Route The research, which has been published following peer review, includes clear indicators to systematic range errors at a number of important observatories in the worldwide network. There is an international study group, including SGF personnel, looking into ways of improving this position. The impact of the published work includes foreign agencies such as NASA carrying out upgrades to their laser ranging stations that will improve the accuracy of their observations. Work is also ongoing within SGF to improve the understanding and modelling of the technique in an attempt to make mm-level accuracy a reality and to inform others of best practice. This work is being prepared for publication, and has been communicated in international forums.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Communities and Social Services/Policy,Environment,Transport

 
Description All environmental research that is based upon knowledge of precise locations, both on the surface of the Earth and in orbit around it, depends on the science of space geodesy. Recognising the societal importance of this underpinning work, the United Nations in 2015 passed the Resolution 'A Global Geodetic Reference Frame for Sustainable Development,' co-sponsored by 52 Member States including the UK, urging Member States to implement open sharing of geodetic data and inviting them to commit to improving and maintaining national geodetic infrastructure as an essential means to enhance the global geodetic reference frame. Both the realisation of a global frame and the precise determination of the orbits of EO satellites within that frame require accurate tracking observations from a network of ground-based observatories distributed worldwide. The very accurate and prolific observational output from SGF continues to ensure that it is a major player in this global enterprise.
First Year Of Impact 2015
Sector Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Environment,Security and Diplomacy,Transport
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Economic,Policy & public services

 
Description Funding contributed by MoD to SGF operations
Amount £500,000 (GBP)
Organisation Ministry of Defence (MOD) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2014 
End 03/2019
 
Description EU Satellite Survey and Tracking 
Organisation Defence Science & Technology Laboratory (DSTL)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution This is the start of an EU-funded, multi-member state consortium effort in satellite survey and tracking for security in space applications. The SGF contribution, as a contractor to UKSA, is provision of expertise and satellite tracking information. Observations of satellite positions, data processing developments and reports have been contributed from NERC SGF. The work started in January 2016 and potentially will continue through 2020.
Collaborator Contribution The EU UK Beneficiary is UKSA, which carried out the negotiations with the EC and the other Member States. UKSA will manage and coordinate the Programme, with contributions of expertise and data from STFC and expertise and management from DSTL.
Impact The early stages in this ongoing collaboration have been fruitful in developing a good working relationship between the UK partners to provide the UK input to satellite surveillance and tracking information. The Consortium is also engaging with the academic community that ultimately will work with the observations to develop new ways of assessing orbital risk.
Start Year 2015
 
Description EU Satellite Survey and Tracking 
Organisation Science and Technologies Facilities Council (STFC)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution This is the start of an EU-funded, multi-member state consortium effort in satellite survey and tracking for security in space applications. The SGF contribution, as a contractor to UKSA, is provision of expertise and satellite tracking information. Observations of satellite positions, data processing developments and reports have been contributed from NERC SGF. The work started in January 2016 and potentially will continue through 2020.
Collaborator Contribution The EU UK Beneficiary is UKSA, which carried out the negotiations with the EC and the other Member States. UKSA will manage and coordinate the Programme, with contributions of expertise and data from STFC and expertise and management from DSTL.
Impact The early stages in this ongoing collaboration have been fruitful in developing a good working relationship between the UK partners to provide the UK input to satellite surveillance and tracking information. The Consortium is also engaging with the academic community that ultimately will work with the observations to develop new ways of assessing orbital risk.
Start Year 2015
 
Description EU Satellite Survey and Tracking 
Organisation UK Space Agency
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution This is the start of an EU-funded, multi-member state consortium effort in satellite survey and tracking for security in space applications. The SGF contribution, as a contractor to UKSA, is provision of expertise and satellite tracking information. Observations of satellite positions, data processing developments and reports have been contributed from NERC SGF. The work started in January 2016 and potentially will continue through 2020.
Collaborator Contribution The EU UK Beneficiary is UKSA, which carried out the negotiations with the EC and the other Member States. UKSA will manage and coordinate the Programme, with contributions of expertise and data from STFC and expertise and management from DSTL.
Impact The early stages in this ongoing collaboration have been fruitful in developing a good working relationship between the UK partners to provide the UK input to satellite surveillance and tracking information. The Consortium is also engaging with the academic community that ultimately will work with the observations to develop new ways of assessing orbital risk.
Start Year 2015
 
Description American Geophysical Union, California 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Invited talk on aspects of space geodesy at AGU, San Francisco in December 2016.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description BBC film unit interviews at SGF 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A BBC4 TV film team visited SGF and filmed interviews with two members of the team regarding a programme entitled 'gravity', to be shown during March 2017. It is a 90 minute programme, the SGF interviews on satellite tracking and gravity measurements lasting a few minutes.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Carried out a technical review of the operational, manpower and research activities of satellite laser ranging at two Australian observatories managed by Geoscience Australia. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Geoscience Australia (GA) invited G Appleby to travel to its two geodetic observatories, one near Perth and the other near Canberra and make a report based on a SWOT assessment. This report is to be part of a GA review of its geodetic infrastructure for the next ten years. Following the fact-finding visits to the two observatories, he gave a seminar at GA HQ in Canberra on the role of laser ranging in modern geodesy. Attending were policy makers in GA, practitioners and researchers in the wider space and ground-based geodetic field, as well a graduate students. One of the outcomes is that, as recommended in the report, GA has recruited an additional engineer to support the work at one of the observatories. Further outcomes include a growing collaboration between the GA and SGF research groups, and possible further consultation regarding GA's aim to improve the operational code at both of its observatories.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Served on a NASA Space Geodesy review panel as an external expert 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Under review were six proposals for funding space geodesy activities based in the US but also involving collaborators in European countries as well as US researchers. I read the proposals and submitted reports. Attended a one-day review meeting in the US hosted by NASA as part of a small review panel that decided on the day which top few proposals should be funded.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Served on an European Space Agency review panel 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Joined a small expert panel to review applications to ESA for new Earth observing space missions. Particular emphasis on a mission related to SGF area of work. Reviewed paperwork including the detailed application, then attended two 2-day working meetings hosted by ESA in the Netherlands.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Talk on space geodesy to amateur astronomy group 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The on-site Science Centre runs astronomy classes for interested amateur astronomers and scientists. A lecture on the work of SGF is given during the course, followed by a tour of SGF
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012,2014,2015,2016
 
Description Talk on space geodesy to astronomy undergraduate students 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact The Bader International Study Centre, Herstmonceux, the UK campus of Queen's University, Ontario, Canada, and the organisation that hosts the SGF on its land, runs winter and spring term astronomy courses for its non-science undergraduates. The students visit SGF formally and informally. Each term, SGF gives a guest lecture on space geodesy to the classes.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2010,2012,2013,2014,2015
 
Description Visit and tour by Newcastle University geomatics undergraduates 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact Each year, some 40 geomatics undergraduate students from Newcastle University visit SGF for a two hour extensive tour that includes a short lecture on the science enabled by space geodesy.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011,2012,2013,2014
 
Description Work Experience placements at SGF Herstmonceux 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Each year some six pre-GCSE students from the local neighbourhood in East Sussex spend a week working with members of the SGF team on a variety of projects. They help with laser range observing, with site leveling surveys and data collection and analysis.

SGF is on the list maintained at local schools as an institute that will accommodate a number of work experience students each year. Those interested apply to SGF through their schools and are interviewed on site.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011,2012,2013,2014,2015