The rapid growing number of earth observation missions and commercial low-earth-orbit (LEO) constellation plans have provided a strong motivation to get accurate LEO satellite position and velocity information in real time. This paper is devoted to improve the real-time kinematic LEO orbits through fixing the zero-differenced (ZD) ambiguities of onboard Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) phase observations. In the proposed method, the real-time uncalibrated phase delays (UPDs) are estimated epoch-by-epoch via a global-distributed network to support the ZD ambiguity resolution (AR) for LEO satellites. By separating the UPDs, the ambiguities of onboard ZD GPS phase measurements recover their integer nature. Then, wide-lane (WL) and narrow-lane (NL) AR are performed epoch-by-epoch and the real-time ambiguity–fixed orbits are thus obtained. To validate the proposed method, a real-time kinematic precise orbit determination (POD), for both Sentinel-3A and Swarm-A satellites, was carried out with ambiguity–fixed and ambiguity–float solutions, respectively. The ambiguity fixing results indicate that, for both Sentinel-3A and Swarm-A, over 90% ZD ambiguities could be properly fixed with the time to first fix (TTFF) around 25–30 min. For the assessment of LEO orbits, the differences with post-processed reduced dynamic orbits and satellite laser ranging (SLR) residuals are investigated. Compared with the ambiguity–float solution, the 3D orbit difference root mean square (RMS) values reduce from 7.15 to 5.23 cm for Sentinel-3A, and from 5.29 to 4.01 cm for Swarm-A with the help of ZD AR. The SLR residuals also show notable improvements for an ambiguity–fixed solution; the standard deviation values of Sentinel-3A and Swarm-A are 4.01 and 2.78 cm, with improvements of over 20% compared with the ambiguity–float solution. In addition, the phase residuals of ambiguity–fixed solution are 0.5–1.0 mm larger than those of the ambiguity–float solution; the possible reason is that the ambiguity fixing separate integer ambiguities from unmodeled errors used to be absorbed in float ambiguities.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited