SCIENTIFIC PUBLICATION: Co-location of space geodetic techniques carried out at the Geodetic Observatory Wettzell using a closure in time and a multi-technique reference target
Co-location of space geodetic techniques carried out at the Geodetic Observatory Wettzell using a closure in time and a multi-technique reference target
J. Kodet, K. U. Schreiber, J. Eckl, C. Plötz, S. Mähler, T. Schüler, T. Klügel, & S. Riepl
The quality of the links between the different space geodetic techniques (VLBI, SLR, GNSS and DORIS) is still one of the major limiting factors for the realization of a unique global terrestrial reference frame that is accurate enough to allow the monitoring of the Earth system, i.e., of processes like sea level change, postglacial rebound and silent earthquakes. According to the specifications of the global geodetic observing system of the International Association of Geodesy, such a reference frame should be accurate to 1 mm over decades, with rates of change stable at the level of 0.1 mm/year. The deficiencies arise from inaccurate or incomplete local ties at many fundamental sites as well as from systematic instrumental biases in the individual space geodetic techniques. Frequently repeated surveys, the continuous monitoring of antenna heights and the geometrical mount stability (Lösler et al. in J Geod 90:467–486, 2016. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00190-016-0887-8) have not provided evidence for insufficient antenna stability. Therefore, we have investigated variations in the respective system delays caused by electronic circuits, which is not adequately captured by the calibration process, either because of subtle differences in the circuitry between geodetic measurement and calibration, high temporal variability or because of lacking resolving bandwidth. The measured system delay variations in the electric chain of both VLBI- and SLR systems reach the order of 100 ps, which is equivalent to 3 cm of path length. Most of this variability is usually removed by the calibrations but by far not all. This paper focuses on the development of new technologies and procedures for co-located geodetic instrumentation in order to identify and remove systematic measurement biases within and between the individual measurement techniques. A closed-loop optical time and frequency distribution system and a common inter-technique reference target provide the possibility to remove variable system delays. The main motivation for the newly established central reference target, locked to the station clock, is the combination of all space geodetic instruments at a single reference point at the observatory. On top of that it provides the unique capability to perform a closure measurement based on the observation of time.