An important part of Gaia data processing is the Gaia ephemeris
allowing one to compute Gaia position and velocity in the BCRS for any
moment of time covered by observations. Clearly, the accuracy of Gaia ephemeris is crucial for the project. The required accuracy of Gaia velocity is driven by the aberration of light: 1 as in direction
corresponds to about 1 mm s in velocity. The requirements for the
accuracy of Gaia position comes from the paralactic effect for the
near-Earth objects (NEOs) and was assumed to be 150 m. The latter requirement
is only important for data releases that include solar-system data.
The Gaia ephemeris is provided by the European Space Operation Centre
(ESOC). The original ESOC ephemeris is based on the same INPOP10e
ephemeris that is used in the Gaia DPAC data processing. The
ephemeris is based on radiometric observations of the spacecraft
(radio ranging and Doppler pseudo-ranging data) and is constructed
using standard orbit reconstruction procedures that include fitting a
dynamical model to the observational data.
The standard ESOC orbit ORB1 is delivered once per week in the form of an OEM orbit
file (OEM – Orbit Exchange Message). The orbit file contain three
time segments of different nature: (1) final reconstructed orbit –
the orbit is fitted to all available data and may change in
the future only when new sort of data (e.g. DDOR – Delta-Differential
One-Way Range, an observational technique giving high-accuracy
directional positions of the spacecraft – or optical tracking,
Section 3.2.2); this part starts with the launch and
ends about 1 week before the date of delivery; (2) preliminary
reconstructed orbit – the orbit is preliminary fitted to
observations; this part of the orbit that starts about 1 week before
the delivery and ends at the date of delivery will change in the next
delivery; (3) predicted orbit – the orbit is not fitted to the data, but
obtained from dynamical modelling with best known parameters of the
satellite, its orbit and planned manoeuvres; this part covers from
approximately date of delivery to the planned end of mission.
The ORB1 ephemerides are used in the daily processing.
Approximately once per year ESOC delivers a more sophisticated version
of Gaia orbit that is called ORB2 and based on both radiometric and DDOR data.
The ORB2 orbits are valid till certain time in the past and
in general have better accuracy than the ORB1 orbits. The astrometric solution (AGIS)
of Gaia DR2 is based on the ORB2 ephemeris valid till the end of 2016.
The delivered ESOC ephemerides are geocentric and parametrized by TDB. They
are converted to barycentric using INPOP10e and re-parametrized (and
rescaled) to TCB when importing into DPAC software environment. The
import process results into a set of Chebyshev polynomials for the
barycentric Gaia orbit in TCB. The parameters of those Chebyshev
polynomials are chosen so that the difference between the delivered
OEM orbit file and the Chebyshev representation is negligible
compared to the required accuracy of the orbit mentioned above.
In the delivered OEM files the variance–covariance matrix
of 3 components of the position and 3 components of the velocity is
delivered with a step of 30 seconds. This gives realistic estimates
of the actual uncertainties of the Gaia orbit.
The Gaia orbit determination satisfies the accuracy requirements
imposed by Gaia DR2: the uncertainty of the BCRS velocity of Gaia is
believed to be below a few mm s giving uncertainties in individual
astrometric observations at the level below a few as.
The effect of an error in Gaia velocity in the astrometric solution
(AGIS) is, to first order, equivalent to that of a specific small
variation of the basic angle and an additional small variation of the
Gaia attitude. The variation of attitude has no further
consequences on the scientific parameters of the solution. In Gaia DR2 possible effects of basic angle variations are calibrated in AGIS
using a simple model of periodic variations parametrized by the
heliotropic phase of the satellite (see Section
3.3.7). This basic angle calibration not only
improves our knowledge of the physical basic angle variations, but also
diminish possible effects of Gaia ephemeris errors. For
future releases, this sort of calibration will be more sophisticated.