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GOCE, the Gravity field and steady-state Ocean Circulation Explorer, is a European (ESA) Earth science satellite that was launched at 14:21 UT on 17 March 2009 from Plesetsk on a Rockot/Breeze KM launch vehicle.

GOCE was designed to measure Earth's gravitational field to create very high-resolution maps of the geoid. These maps were to provide the baseline for measurements of ocean circulation and sea-level change.

The 1,100 kg spacecraft was 5 m long by 1 m wide with fixed solar arrays producing 1.3 kW of power. The satellite carried six high-sensitivity accelerometers arranged along three axes of the spacecraft. To enable the satellite to acquire high-resolution measurements the satellite traveled at a low orbital altitude (260 km) at which atmospheric drag effects are still significant. To compensate for these effects the satellite had a sleek arrow-shaped design to reduce drag and small winglets and a tail fin to stabilize the spacecraft. GOCE's orbital altitude was maintained with the assistance of an ion engine on-board.

The GOCE satellite re-entered the Earth's atmosphere late on 10 November 2013, shortly before midnight UT, on a descending orbit pass that extended across Siberia, the western Pacific Ocean, the eastern Indian Ocean and Antarctica. The satellite disintegrated in the high atmosphere and no damage to property was reported.

Alternate Names

  • 34602

Facts in Brief

Launch Date: 2009-03-17
Launch Vehicle: Rokot/Breeze-KM
Launch Site: Plesetsk, Russia

Funding Agency

  • European Space Agency (International)


  • Earth Science

Additional Information

Questions and comments about this spacecraft can be directed to: Coordinated Request and User Support Office

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