GRACE-FO Laser Ranging Interferometer

To ensure the continuation of the gravity field measurements, the Grace Follow-On (GRACE-FO) mission is under development in a US–German cooperation.

GRACE Follow-On mission goal

The goal of the Laser Ranging Interferometer (LRI) was to improve the distance measurement accuracy significantly from some micrometers to some ten nanometers at 0.1 Hz frequency.

Cost efficient development of the GRACE-FO LRI

To allow a cost efficient development and a launch in 2017, the GRACE Follow-On satellites were very similar to the original GRACE satellites with some improvements and a technology demonstrator for further gravity missions. Therefore, in addition to the K-Band an experimental laser ranging instrument (LRI) flew, based on a laser interferometer.

GRACE-C Mission Performance SummaryGRACE Follow-On mission summary

Challenging key instrument requirements of the LRI

  • Ranging measurement accuracy of 80 nm/√Hz (for 10-100 mHz)
  • Laser beam co-alignment of less than 50 µrad

LRI instrument set-up

The instrument consists of a frequency stabilized laser, a triple mirror assembly (retroreflector), an optical bench and an electronics board to evaluate the interference signal.

LRI OverviewIntersatellite ranging instrument set-up

Main tasks for SpaceTech in the GRACE-FO Laser Ranging Interferometer project

  • Industrial responsibility for German Laser Ranging Interferometer project contribution
  • Development of the triple mirror assembly, a light weight retroreflector providing the beam routing with 600 mm beam offset and 50 µrad coalignment accuracy
  • Development of the optical bench including beam steering mechanism, signal detection and electronics
  • In house assembly, integration and test of the EMs and PFMs on unit- and instrument-level and support at spacecraft-level