Satellite Laser Ranging (SLR) makes an important contribution to Earth science providing the most accurate measurement of the long-wavelength components of Earth’s gravity field, including their temporal variations. Furthermore, SLR data along with those from the other three geometric space techniques, Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI), Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) and DORIS, generate and maintain the International Terrestrial Reference Frame (ITRF) that is used as a reference by all Earth Observing systems and beyond. As a result we obtain accurate station positions and linear velocities, a manifestation of tectonic plate movements important in earthquake studies and in geophysics in general. The “geodetic” satellites used in SLR are passive spheres characterized by very high density, with little else than gravity perturbing their orbits. As a result they define a very stable reference frame, defining primarily and uniquely the origin of the ITRF, and in equal shares, its scale. The ITRF is indeed used as “the” standard to which we can compare regional, GNSS-derived and alternate frames. The melting of global icecaps, ocean and atmospheric circulation, sea-level change, hydrological and internal Earth-mass redistribution are nowadays monitored using satellites. The observations and products of these missions are geolocated and referenced using the ITRF. This allows scientists to splice together records from various missions sometimes several years apart, to generate useful records for monitoring geophysical processes over several decades. The exchange of angular momentum between the atmosphere and solid Earth for example is measured and can be exploited for monitoring global change. LARES, an Italian Space Agency (ASI) satellite, is the latest geodetic satellite placed in orbit. Its main contribution is in the area of geodesy and the definition of the ITRF in particular and this presentation will discuss the improvements it will make in the aforementioned areas.

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