Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Aerospace Engineering Sciences

First Advisor

Dennis M. Akos

Second Advisor

Penina Axelrad

Third Advisor

George H. Born

Fourth Advisor

Emil R. Kursinski

Fifth Advisor

Judah Levine


Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) radio occultation (RO) is a remote sensing technique that exploits existing navigation signals to make global, real-time observations of the Earth's atmosphere. A specialized RO receiver makes measurements of signals originating from a transmitter onboard a GNSS spacecraft near the Earth's horizon. The radio wave is altered during passage through the Earth's atmosphere. The changes in the received signals are translated to the refractivity characteristics of the intervening medium, which enable the calculation of atmospheric pressure, temperature, and humidity.

Current satellite missions employing GNSS RO have provided invaluable and timely information for weather and climate applications. Existing constellations of occultation satellites, however, are aging and producing fewer quality measurements. Replacement fleets of RO satellites are imperative to sustain and improve the global coverage and operational impact achieved by the current generation of RO satellites. This dissertation describes studies that facilitate the development of next generation RO receivers and satellite constellations. Multiple research efforts were conducted that aim to improve the quantity and quality of measurements made by a future satellite-based RO collection system.

These studies range in magnitude and impact, and begin with a receiver development study using ground-based occultation data. Future RO constellations and collection opportunities were simulated and autonomous occultation prediction and scheduling capabilities were implemented. Finally, a comprehensive study was conducted to characterize the stability of the GNSS atomic frequency standards. Oscillator stability for a subset of satellites in the GNSS was found to be of insufficient quality at timescales relevant to RO collections and would degrade the atmospheric profiling capabilities of an RO system utilizing these signals. Recommendations for a high-rate clock correction network are proposed, which provides significant improvement to the fractional errors in the derived refractivity, pressure, and temperature values caused by the oscillator instabilities.