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Laser Geodynamics Satellites1&2 (LAGEOS 1&2)

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Status: Current
Mission Category: Other
Launch Date: May 4, 1976

LAGEOS, or Laser Geodynamics Satellites, are a series of satellites designed to provide an orbiting benchmark for geodynamical studies of the Earth.

The LAGEOS satellites are able to determine positions of points on the Earth with extremely high accuracy due to the stability of their orbits. Measurements are made by transmitting pulsed laser beams from Earth ground stations to the satellites. The laser beams then return to Earth after hitting the reflecting surfaces and the travel times are precisely measured, permitting ground stations in different parts of the Earth to measure their separations to better than one inch in thousands of miles.

The high mass-to-area ratio and the precise, stable (attitude-independent) geometry of the LAGEOS spacecrafts, together with their extremely regular orbits, make these satellites the most precise position references available.

Key Laser Geodynamics Satellites1&2 Facts

Mission/Portal Page:
Instruments: Earth Surface and Interior

Relevant Science Questions:

  • How is the global Earth system changing?

Science Goals:

  • The LAGEOS mission has the following key goals: (1) Provide an accurate measurement of the satellite’s position with respect to Earth; (2) Determine the planet’s geoid; and (3) Determine tectonic plate movements associated with continental drift.