Satellite Systems

GFZ was and is involved in the development, manufacturing, operation, and analysis of various geoscientific satellite missions and systems. Further, a Satellite Receiving Station and a Satellite Laser Ranging Station are operated at the GFZ.

Satellite missions


Swarm is a satellite mission of the European Space Agency ESA consisting of a constellation of three CHAMP-like satellites in three different polar orbits. The main objective of the mission is a survey of the geomagnetic field and its temporal evolution, and to improve our knowledge of the Earth's interior and near-Earth's magnetic environment.


GRACE is a joint project of the US space agency (NASA) and the German Aerospace Center (DLR). Primary scientific goal of the GRACE mission was to measure the Earth’s gravity field and it’s time variability. The follow up mission GRACE Follow on/GRACE-FO continues the efforts of the GRACE mission.


EnMAP (Environmental Mapping and Analysis Program) is a German hyperspectral mission. The primary goal of EnMAP is to offer accurate, diagnostic information on the state and evolution of terrestrial ecosystems on a timely and frequent basis, and to allow for a detailed analysis of surface parameters with regard to the characterization of vegetation canopies, rock/soil targets and coastal waters on a global scale.


CHAMP  (CHAllenging Minisatellite Payload) was a German small satellite mission for geoscientific and atmospheric research and applications, managed by GFZ. With its highly precise, multifunctional and complementary payload elements and its orbit characteristics CHAMP generated highly precise gravity and magnetic field measurements simultaneously for the first time and over a 10 years period.


GFZ-1 was the first GFZ satellite, designed for use in the field of satellite geodesy, equipped with laser ranging systems. The sperical satellite was used for determination of variations in the rotational characteristics of the Earth, for precise position determination and for the measurement of Earth's gravity field.


The Earth explorer satellite GOCE (Gravity Field and Steady-State Ocean Circulation Explorer) is the first satellite mission within the framework of the Living Planet Programme of the European Space Agency ESA. This satellite mission is mapping the Earth's gravity field on global scales with high spatial resolution.

Ground segments

Satellite Receiving Station in Ny-Ålesund

GFZ operates a Satellite Receiving Station in Ny-Ålesund, Spitsbergen, which fully automatically receives data from research satellites in polar orbits such as CHAMP, GRACE, TerraSAR-X, TanDEM-X or GRACE-FO and transmits them for further processing in Potsdam.

Laser Ranging Station

The Satellite Laser Ranging (SLR) Station Potsdam has been continuously operating within the framework of the International Laser Ranging Service since January 2003. The method of satellite laser ranging was established in 1964 and still serves as one of the most precise space geodetic techniques with continuously improved accuracy.