81757 - Space Geodetic Techniques

Course Unit Page

  • Teacher Susanna Zerbini

  • Learning modules Susanna Zerbini (Modulo 1)
    Enrico Serpelloni (Modulo 2)
    Giordano Teza (Modulo 3)

  • Credits 6

  • SSD GEO/10

  • Teaching Mode Traditional lectures (Modulo 1)
    Traditional lectures (Modulo 2)
    Traditional lectures (Modulo 3)

  • Language English

  • Campus of Bologna

  • Degree Programme Second cycle degree programme (LM) in Physics of the Earth System (cod. 8626)


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Climate Action

Academic Year 2022/2023

Learning outcomes

Designed to provide the students with an up-to-date knowledge of the most important and accurate space geodetic techniques. During the last few decades, observing and studying the planet Earth have made considerable and fast progresses thanks to the availability of high-precision space geodetic techniques and to ever increasing measurement capabilities. Today the millimeter-level positioning is a global scale reality. These accurate and global scale observations have allowed advancing from a static knowledge of the geometric and physical parameters describing our planet to the capability of monitoring the dynamics of the System Earth over different spatial and temporal scales. The Lab will deal with the Global Positioning System (GPS) technique which, nowadays, is widely used for many scientific and societal applications. Lab work includes field experience with GPS receivers and processing of the collected data.

Course contents

Section 1- Susanna Zerbini

Fundamentals of reference frame/system. Fundamentals of satellite orbit computation. Basic knowledge of the principles of space geodetic techniques and relevant applications to studies of the System Earth. Positioning techniques: Satellite Laser Ranging (SLR), Lunar Laser Ranging (LLR), Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI) and Global Positioning System/Global Navigation Satellite System (GPS/GNSS). Radar techniques: Satellite Radar Altimetry for studying sea level variations and Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR) for studying crustal deformations.

Section 2- Enrico Serpelloni

Methods for GNSS data processing. Workflow of Open Access software for the generation of stations coordinates time-series. Noise and geophysical signals in the coordinates time-series. Methods for estimating displacement velocity and strain-rates. Discussion of case-studies in the following fields: active tectonics, geodynamics, subsidence and hydrology.

Section 3- Giordano Teza

GNSS receiver/antenna setting and receiver start up. Acquisition of GNSS data at a selected station. Check on the quality of the RINEX observation files. Processing of the RINEX data and generation of the coordinate time series. Estimate and visualization of the station velocity using the Hector software. Strain-rate estimation by means of an Open-Source code or proprietary software that will be made available to the students.


1) Guenter Seeber, Satellite Geodesy, de Gruyter;

2) Wolfang Torge, Geodesy, de Gruyter;

3) Gerhard Beutler et al. (Edts.), Earth gravity field from space - from sensors to Earth sciences, Kluver Academic Publishers;

4) Hans-Peter Plag and Michael Pearlman (Edts.), Global Geodetic Observing System, Springer.

Teaching methods

Lectures, laboratory and field work.

Assessment methods

Oral examination of about 40 minutes and field test with GPS receivers

Teaching tools

Computers, projection material, movies and GPS receivers.

Office hours

See the website of Susanna Zerbini

See the website of Enrico Serpelloni

See the website of Giordano Teza