GFZ German research centre for geo sciences

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


The Environmental Mapping and Analysis Program (EnMAP) is a German hyperspectral satellite mission that aims at monitoring and characterizing the Earth’s environment on a global scale. EnMAP will provide accurate and diagnostic surface parameters for terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems to be used in a range of application fields. It will allow to quantify and model crucial ecosystem processes, to study the diverse effects of human interventions and to support the management of natural resources.

ESA Satellite Mission Swarm

We are involved in the ESA satellite mission Swarm, which observes the geomagnetic field since November 2013. The mission consists of three identical, low-Earth orbiting satellites and also measures ionospheric and atmospheric parameters.

GFZ Satellite Mission CHAMP

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.

Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) Mission

GRACE is a joint project between the National Aeronautics and Space Administration ( NASA ) and the Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt ( DLR ). The mission has been proposed in 1996 jointly by the University of Texas at Austin, Center for Space Research ( UTCSR ), the German Research Centre for Geosciences ( GFZ ) and the Jet Propulsion Laboratories (JPL) in Pasadena.

Gravity Field and Steady-State Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE)

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 ESA. This satellite mission is mapping the Earth's gravity field on global scales with a spatial resolution of approx. 100 km which is considerably more precise than all gravity satellite missions to date.

Geo Research Satellite GFZ-1

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.

Ground segments

Satellite Receiving Station Ny-Ålesund

The GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences operates a satellite receiving station at Ny-Ålesund, Spitsbergen (78° 55´ North, 11° 56´ East) in order to receive data from research satellites in polar orbits. The station is located about 1 km outside the village, between the local airport and the Kings Bay.

Satellite Laser Ranging Station Potsdam

The Satellite Laser Ranging (SLR) Station of the GFZ Potsdam has been continuously operating within the framework of the International Laser Ranging Service (ILRS) since January 2003.

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