Satellite remote sensing systems require accurate, autonomous and real-time orbit determinations (RTOD) for geo-referencing. Onboard Global Positioning System (GPS) has widely been used to undertake such tasks. In this paper, a novel RTOD method achieving decimeter precision using GPS carrier phases, required by China’s HY2A and ZY3 missions, is presented. A key to the algorithm success is the introduction of a new parameter, termed pseudo-ambiguity. This parameter combines the phase ambiguity, the orbit, and clock offset errors of the GPS broadcast ephemeris together to absorb a large part of the combined error. Based on the analysis of the characteristics of the orbit and clock offset errors, the pseudo-ambiguity can be modeled as a random walk, and estimated in an extended Kalman filter. Experiments of processing real data from HY2A and ZY3, simulating onboard operational scenarios of these two missions, are performed using the developed software SATODS. Results have demonstrated that the position and velocity accuracy (3D RMS) of 0.2–0.4 m and 0.2–0.4 mm/s, respectively, are achieved using dual-frequency carrier phases for HY2A, and slightly worse results for ZY3. These results show it is feasible to obtain orbit accuracy at decimeter level of 3–5 dm for position and 0.3–0.5 mm/s for velocity with this RTOD method.
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