Open-loop tracking of rising and setting GPS radio-occultation signals from an airborne platform: Signal model and error analysis

Wang, KN, Garrison JL, Acikoz U, Haase JS, Murphy BJ, Muradyan P, Lulich T.  2016.  Open-loop tracking of rising and setting GPS radio-occultation signals from an airborne platform: Signal model and error analysis. Ieee Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing. 54:3967-3984.

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atmosphere, global positioning system, low-earth-orbit, radio occultation, receiver, remote, sensing, Signal processing, troposphere


Global Positioning System (GPS) radio-occultation (RO) is an atmospheric sounding technique utilizing the received GPS signal through the stratified atmosphere to measure refractivity, which provides information on temperature and humidity. The GPS-RO technique is now operational on several Low Earth Orbiting (LEO) satellites, which cannot provide high temporal and spatial resolution soundings necessary to observe localized transient events, such as tropical storms. An airborne RO (ARO) system has thus been developed for localized GPS-RO campaigns. RO signals in the lower troposphere are adversely affected by rapid phase accelerations and severe signal power fading. These signal dynamics often cause the phase-locked loop in conventional GPS survey receivers to lose lock in the lower troposphere, and the open-loop (OL) tracking in postprocessing is used to overcome this problem. OL tracking also allows robust processing of rising GPS signals, approximately doubling the number of observed occultations. An approach for "backward" OL tracking was developed, in which the correlations are computed sequentially in reverse time so that the signal can be acquired and tracked at high elevations for rising occultations. Ultimately, the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) limits the depth of tracking in the atmosphere. We have developed a model relating the SNR to the variance in the residual phase of the observed signal produced from OL tracking. In this paper, we demonstrate the applicability of the phase variance model to airborne data. We then apply this model to set a threshold on refractivity retrieval based upon the cumulative unwrapping error bias to determine the altitude limit for reliable signal tracking. We also show consistency between the ARO SNR and collocated COSMIC satellite observations and use these results to evaluate the antenna requirements for an improved ARO system.