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The Radio Science Laboratory (RSLab) has a well established expertise in orbit determination, analysis and calibration of tracking data for interplanetary spacecraft. The laboratory team, led by Prof. Luciano Iess, has internationally given credit in radio science investigations for planetary exploration and takes part in the most important ESA and NASA missions through the design and implementation of deep space radio science experiments, most notably:

Cassini-Huygens (NASA-ESA-ASI), currently flying:

RSLab is responsible for the analysis of radio science data, and the determination of the Saturn system gravity field which allows improving the understanding of the planet and moons interior;


BepiColombo (ESA-JAXA), on development–phase D:

RSLab is responsible for the design and development of the MORE experiment, which will investigate the Mercury interior through determination of its gravity field and will perform highly accurate tests of General Relativity;


Juno (NASA), on cruise phase:

RSLab collaborates to the mission radio science experiment and the analysis of Jupiter's gravitational field and its internal structure;


JUICE (ESA), on development, phase B2:

RSLab is responsible for the design and development of the 3GM experiment which will investigate the Galilean satellites geophysics (through gravity) and atmosphere (through radio occultations);



Veritas (NASA), on definition–phase A:

RSLab will participate to the design of the mission radio science experiment to estimate the Venus gravity field up to very high degrees and allow the investigation of the planet internal structure;



Lisa Pathfinder (ESA), next to launch:

RSLab will support the characterization of the spacecraft acceleration on long time scale through very accurate orbit determination of the spacecraft drag-free trajectory.



The laboratory research activities also target at development of precision tracking systems of deep space probes and development of mathematical models and software tools for deep space orbit determination. In particular, the experiments carried out while Cassini was in the cruise phase on 2002 (in which RSLab played a leading role) provided the more accurate range-rate measurements from a space probe to date. Likewise, the MORE experiment on board the BepiColombo mission to Mercury will exploit a state-of-art Doppler and ranging tracking systems that will allow estimating the spacecraft trajectory with an accuracy never achieved before. Within its research framework, RSLab has also developed a simulator for a concept mission to exploit SBI tracking of a small network of Mars landers, providing measurements of their angular separation with an unprecedented accuracy. This technique has the potential to provide valuable insights of the Mars internal structure and rotation.

RSLab is also responsible for the development and support of the ESA Delta-DOR software correlator, which was commissioned by the agency in 2005 to upgrade its Ground Segment infrastructures and operational capabilities. The correlator is a key element of the Delta-DOR technique that allows producing accurate angular measurements of the spacecraft position. This technique can play a key role either during interplanetary cruises and crucial mission phases, e.g. during orbit insertion manoeuvres. The correlator has been extensively used by ESA, both to improve the orbit determination of its spacecrafts, and to give support to other space agencies, as NASA and JAXA.

RSLab actively collaborates to technological development studies with the most important research institutes and European aerospace companies, like BAE Systems, Thales Alenia Space and GMV.

RSLab facilities are located inside the faculty of Engineering of Sapienza Università di Roma, in via Eudossiana 18.  The laboratory owns extensive computer facilities to support its projects. It is composed of a heterogeneous set of Linux servers, Mac OSX and Windows workstations interconnected through a 100 Mbit Ethernet LAN. Research activities are mostly based on self-developed software tools for signal analysis, data filtering and image processing. Available programming tools include MATLAB/Simulink, ENVI/IDL, Intel Fortran and C/C++ compilers, and the MKL and IMSL mathematical libraries. Also, the JPL’s MONTE orbit determination software (used by the agency for navigation of its space exploration missions) is available to the laboratory thanks to an international agreement between ASI and NASA, and is routinely used for the orbit determination and scientific data analysis of many space missions.

Coordinator L. Iess

Via Eudossiana, 18
dove_siamoBuilding A 
Dip. di Ingegneria Meccanica e Aerospaziale  
tel: +39 06 44585336

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