Gravity Field Recovery and Error Analysis for the MOCASS Mission Proposal Based on Cold Atom Interferometry
Satellite missions providing data for a continuous monitoring of the Earth gravity field and its changes are fundamental to study climate changes, hydrology, sea level changes, and solid Earth phenomena. GRACE-FO (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-On) mission was launched in 2018 and NGGM (Next Generation Gravity Mission) studies are ongoing for the long-term monitoring of the time-variable gravity field. In recent years, an innovative mission concept for gravity measurements has also emerged, exploiting a spaceborne gravity gradio-meter based on cold atom interferometers. In particular, a team of researchers from Italian universities and research institutions has proposed a mission concept called MOCASS (Mass Observation with Cold Atom Sensors in Space) and conducted the study to investigate the performance of a cold atom gradiometer on board a low Earth orbiter and its impact on the modeling of different geophysical phenomena. This paper presents the analysis of the gravity gradient data attainable by such a mission. Firstly, the mathematical model for the MOCASS data processing will be described. Then numerical simulations will be presented, considering different satellite orbital altitudes, pointing modes and instrument configurations (single-arm and double-arm); overall, data were simulated for twenty different observation scenarios. Finally, the simulation results will be illustrated, showing the applicability of the proposed concept and the improvement in modeling the static gravity field with respect to GOCE (Gravity Field and Steady-State Ocean Circulation Explorer).