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Issue 9: Space Applications

Sensing Ocean, Ice and Land Reflected Signalsfrom Space: Results from the UK-DMC GPS Reflectometry Experiment

Scott Gleason, Mounir Adjrad, and Martin Unwin

Download the full paper in PDF (488 KB)


The use of Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) signals reflected from the Earth's surface has progressed from its beginnings in the early 1990's to a demonstrated practical linkage of measurements to geophysical characteristics of ocean, ice and land surfaces.

A pioneering space-based experiment was carried on the UK-DMC satellite launched in September of 2003. The GPS receiver on the satellite was modified to accommodate a downward (nadir) pointing medium gain antenna and to send sampled IF data to a solid-state data recorder [1]. Since its launch it has been successfully used to target and detect specular reflections of GPS signals after scattering from the Earth's oceans, ice sheetsand land surfaces. All data collections under a wide range of conditions have revealed reflected signals, including signals reflected off the ocean under reasonably rough ocean conditions. This demonstrates convincingly that GNSS Reflectometry (or GNSS Bistatic Radar) is a valid future technology for space based Earth remote sensing, even when using modest antenna gain configurations such as that deployed on the UK-DMC low Earth orbiting satellite.

This paper presents a summary of the signals collected from over the ocean, and an examination of the signal relationship to the ocean wind and wave conditions is presented. The preliminary results from ice and land surfaces reflection analysis are also described.


  • Reprinted with permission from The Institute of Navigation ( and The Proceedings of the 18th International Technical Meeting of the Satellite Division of The Institute of Navigation, (pp. 1679-1685). Fairfax, VA: The Institute of Navigation.


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