You are on page 1of 17

Coordinate Systems, Frames and Datums

Coordinate Systems, Frames and Datums

Dr Terry Moore Institute of Engineering Surveying and Space Geodesy The University of Nottingham Nottingham United Kingdom

1 Introduction

Until the advent of satellite positioning and navigation systems, and in particular the Global Positioning System (GPS), geodetic coordinate systems were of little interest to many of the users of coordinate position information. Indeed, many of today's problems and mistakes stem from this historical misunderstanding of the true complexity of systems of coordinates. This paper will describe a number of common types of coordinate representation, their implementation in the definition of coordinate systems, and the realisation of these systems as coordinate frames and datums. Examples of typical local and geocentric datums are outlined as illustrations of the general principals. In order to combine coordinates based on differing systems it is also necessary to understand the methods of transforming coordinates from one system to another.

2 Astronomical Coordinates

In order to define astronomical latitude and longitude ( JA and PA) it is necessary to specify an equator and a zero meridian. The equator is a plane perpendicular to the spin axis of the Earth and passing through the Earths centre of mass. The zero meridian is an arbitrary reference plane which contains the spin axis. In simple terms, the astronomical latitude of a point is given by the angle between the vertical (ie the direction of the gravity vector) at that point and the equatorial plane. The astronomical meridian is defined as the plane passing through the vertical at a point and (a line

parallel to) the spin axis of the Earth (Fig 1). Conventionally, the zero meridian is accepted to be the astronomical meridian through the transit telescope at the old Greenwich Observatory. It follows that the astronomical longitude of a point is the angle between two planes, one of which is the local meridian (or meridional plane) and the other the zero meridian at Greenwich.

Figure 1 Astronomical Latitude and Longitude

The above definitions, however complex in appearance, are gross over-simplifications on three grounds. Firstly, the instantaneous axis of rotation of the Earth is not fixed with respect to the solid mass of the Earth, but is in a state of continuous motion known as polar motion. Although this effect was predicted by Euler in 1765, it was not observed and determined until about a hundred years ago. As a result the position of the north pole, the intersection of the spin axis of the Earth with the surface of the Earth, can move by between 5 and 10 metres per year. It is therefore usual to define astronomical coordinates with respect to an internationally agreed mean axis and not the true, or instantaneous, spin axis. Secondly, the zero meridian does not pass through a particular point at Greenwich, but is defined as the mean value of the adopted longitudes of a number of observatories around the world. Since 1988, the International Earth Rotation Service (IERS), based in Paris, has defined the mean spin axis, the IERS Reference Pole (IRP), and the zero meridian, the IERS Reference Meridian (IRM).

However, the third and most significant drawback of geographical (or astronomical) latitude and longitude is that, unlike geodetic latitude and longitude, they are not proper measures of position on Earth, but indications of the inclination of the direction of the local vertical with respect to the instantaneous axis of rotation of the Earth and the IERS zero longitude (IRM) respectively. More explicitly, if the directions of the vertical at two or more points on Earth are (very conceivably) parallel, then these points will have identical astronomical coordinates. Therefore astronomical coordinates do not constitute a coordinate system in the geometrical sense.

3 Geodetic (Ellipsoidal) Coordinates

The geodetic position of a point on Earth is defined by the ellipsoidal coordinates of the projection of this point on to the surface of a reference ellipsoid, along the normal to that ellipsoid (Fig 2). Geodetic latitude (JG) is defined as the inclination of the normal to the ellipsoidal equatorial plane, and geodetic meridian as the plane through the normal and the minor axis of the reference ellipsoid. Lastly, the geodetic longitude ( PG) of a point is the angle between its geodetic meridional plane and an arbitrary zero meridian (typically the IRM, IERS Reference Meridian).

Figure 2 Geodetic Latitude and Longitude

Unlike astronomical coordinates of points on the surface of the Earth, no two projection points on the reference ellipsoid may have identical geodetic coordinates. By implication, the same applies to the geodetic coordinates of any two points on the Earth, unless they happen to lie on the same normal to the ellipsoid. Moreover, as with the plane and the surface of the sphere, one can develop formulae and compute the (ellipsoidal) distance and azimuth between two points whose geodetic (ellipsoidal) coordinates are known. The reason for using an ellipsoid of rotation rather than a plane, a sphere or a cube as the geodetic reference surface is one of convenience (and not theoretical rigour), because the ellipsoid of rotation is the closest regular geometrical shape to the figure of the Earth. The size (ie the semi-major axis, a, and the flattening,f) of the reference ellipsoid can be chosen arbitrarily, but the positioning of the ellipsoid with respect to the solid Earth is of crucial importance. Generally, the ellipsoid is positioned so that it is a close fit to the geoid (the equipotential surface closest to mean sea level) in the particular area of interest (Fig 3). In classical geodetic practice, this is done by arbitrarily adopting (convenient) values of geodetic latitude, longitude and height above the ellipsoid for a station of origin, and by using mathematical formulae which maintain parallelism between the minor axis of the ellipsoid and the mean axis of rotation of the Earth (Bomford, 1980).

Figure 3 Local and Geocentric Ellipsoids

4 Cartesian Coordinates

A more useful (and popular) alternative to using the angular measurements of latitude and longitude, is to describe the position of a point on, or indeed above or below, the Earths surface in terms of cartesian coordinates. Having specified the equator and zero meridian of either an astronomical or geodetic coordinate system, it is possible to define an associated cartesian coordinate system, X, Y and Z. Conventionally, the axes form a left handed triad with the Z axis in the direction perpendicular to the equator, the X axis in the direction of the zero meridian, and the Y axis perpendicular to the other two (see Fig 4). The origin of such a cartesian system may either be the centre of the associated reference ellipsoid or the implied mass centre of the Earth (geocentric cartesian coordinates).

Figure 4 Cartesian Coordinate Systems

Theoretically, the axes of all properly defined geodetic cartesian coordinate systems must be parallel to one another. It therefore follows that the only coordinate transformations which are necessary to convert from one geodetic cartesian coordinate system to another are three translations of the origin, ( X, ( Y and ( Z. However, in practice, some of these transformations may also involve other parameters, such as rotations about the axes (see 6). A set of 3-d cartesian coordinates, X, Y and Z, can also be converted into corresponding sets of latitude, longitude and height above an ellipsoid of given dimensions (a and e), whose origin and axes coincide with the cartesian X, Y, Z system, by using the cartesian to ellipsoidal conversion formulae.

tan PG =

tan JG =

h=

where Y = a = semi major axis of ellipsoid e = eccentricity of ellipsoid h = ellipsoidal height of point (see 5)

Although direct formulae do exist the simple equations stated here involve an iteration for the latitude term. One can also use a corresponding set of reverse (ellipsoidal to cartesian) formulae to convert latitude, longitude and height above the ellipsoid back to X, Y, Z.

X = (Y + h) cos J G cos P G Y = (Y + h) cos J G sin PG Z = (Y (1-e2) + h) sin PG

The greatest advantage of a cartesian coordinate system is that it is completely defined by the direction of the three axes and the position of the origin, with none of the complications of the reference ellipsoid, projection grids, etc. It is unfortunate that this simplicity of concept is not matched by user convenience. With the exception of aircraft, satellite and space navigation, geodetic cartesian coordinates would be very inconvenient for most users, notably cartographers, surveyors, engineers, sea and land navigators. With geodetic cartesian coordinates, going-up by h meters would not involve an identical increase of the value of Z, except at the North Pole. On the equator, the value of Z would remain unchanged however large the value of h. Nevertheless, all satellite based navigation and positioning systems measure, compute and (in the first instance) output coordinates in 3-d X, Y, Z terms. It is therefore important to understand the concepts involved, and the relationship between 3-d systems and the more familiar 2-d geodetic and projection grid coordinates.

5 Height

In a geodetic coordinate system, as defined in 3, the third dimension is given by the ellipsoidal height, h, of the point, which is defined as the linear distance of the point above, (or below), the ellipsoid, measured along the normal. In practical terms, these are generally unsuitable for normal use, as they are both difficult to determine and bear no relation to the Earths gravitational field which, for example, determines the direction of the flow of water along a pipe. Orthometric heights or, as they are more generally called, heights above mean sea level, are much more useful. The orthometric height, H, of a point is defined as the linear distance from that point to a reference equipotential surface of the Earths gravity field, measured along the gravity vector. Typically, the geoid is specified as the reference surface, being the equipotential surface of the Earth that best fits mean sea level (Bomford, 1980). The difference between ellipsoidal (h) and orthometric (H) heights is denoted by N which is referred to as the geoid-ellipsoid separation or as the geoid height, (see Fig 6) and is given by

h=N+H

Figure 6 Ellipsoid, Geoid and Height

The use of satellite positioning systems, which produce the geometrical ellipsoidal height, requires the corresponding geoid-ellipsoid separation to be known before the more useful orthometric height can be obtained. As a result the development of high precision geoidal models is currently being undertaken in many countries.

6 Datum Transformations

6.1 Introduction

With so many geodetic datums in current use, it is becoming almost common practise to transform coordinates from one datum to another. Although this problem always existed, the advent of the TRANSIT and GPS satellite positioning systems have added increased interest. For example, a navigator on board a ship approaching a United Kingdom port, using GPS, will obtain the WGS84 (see 7) geocentric, geodetic or cartesian, coordinates of the vessel. In order to plot the position on the corresponding local chart, these WGS84 coordinates must be first transformed into the local datum on which the chart is based, which in the UK would most probably be OSGB36. A number of different procedures are available for performing coordinate transformations. The merits and drawbacks of the available techniques should be considered with respect to accuracy requirements and computational simplicity. Of the many geodetic techniques only three, the Helmert, Molodenskii and multiple regression transformation formulae, will be described here.

Differences of coordinates on two different datums may be expressed by a number of parameters. The semi major axis (a) and flattening (f), which define the shape of the ellipsoid associated with each datum, must be known and any differences accounted for in the transformation. The difference of origin (centre of the ellipsoid) between the two datums may be described by three translations (( X, (Y, (Z) of the origin. Similarly, any small differences in the directions of the axes are allowed for by small rotations (Ux, U y, Uz) about the axes, to ensure the axes of both systems are parallel. A Uz rotation expresses the difference in the definition of the zero meridian, and U x and Uy the definition of the adopted equator (or pole). Finally, any differences in realisation of scale between the two coordinate systems may be described by a single scale factor ( ), usually expressed in parts-per-million.

In practice, very few transformations would include all these 9 parameters, and more generally only a subset are of any significance. It must also be recognised that, if there are local regional variations in the realisation of a geodetic datum, these are not accounted for by the adopted average transformations. Specialised techniques have been evolved to deal with such situations, such as the multiple regression formulae (see 6.4).

6.2 Helmert Transformations

The most general method of transforming coordinates from one geodetic datum to another uses all 7 geometrical transformation parameters to convert cartesian coordinates (X, Y and Z). Therefore, any translations of the origin, rotations of the axes and a scale change may be accommodated. The general formulation of this transformation is usually attributed to the German geodesist Helmert and expressed as,

where X1, Y1, Z1 cartesian coordinates in first datum X2, Y2, Z2 cartesian coordinates in second datum.

The rotation angles Ux, U y and Uz, expressed in radians in the matrix, are assumed to be small angles, ie of the order of a few seconds-of-arc. The complete formulation would include a full rotation matrix including sine and cosine expressions of the angles. However, provided there are only small differences in the definition of the directions of the axes the above formula is adequate. Given the geodetic coordinates (J, P, h) of a point it is first necessary to convert these to cartesian coordinates, by using the expressions in 4, before the transformation can be applied. Similarly, the resulting coordinates in the new datum could also be converted to the corresponding geodetic latitude and longitude using the parameters of the ellipsoid associated with this new datum.

In order to determine the 7 parameters which describe the transformations between two geodetic datums, it is necessary to know the positions of a number of common points in both systems. Theoretically the 3-d coordinates of three points would allow the seven parameters to be determined. However, in practice it is usual to use as many common points as possible and obtain the best estimate of the parameters by using a least squares computation (Ashkenazi et al, 1984).

The necessity to use a three-stage computational procedure is a clearly a minor drawback. As a result, although these are the most generalised form of the simple coordinate transformations, there are shorter and more efficient procedures which may be used when only a small number of parameters are involved.

6.3 Molodenskii Formulae

As described in 4, the transformation between two different, but well defined, geodetic datums usually involves only the translation of the origin (the centre of the ellipsoid). In such instances, the Molodenskii datum transformation formulae provide a simple one-stage procedure to convert the geodetic latitude and longitude (and ellipsoidal height) of a point in one datum directly to the second datum. Two versions of the formulae are commonly used, the so-called standard and abridged formulae. Traditionally the abridged versions have been used more extensively than their standard counterparts, however, due to their increased accuracy, the standard formulae are now being recommended for most applications. On the surface of the Earth, the differences between coordinates transformed by using the two versions are less than 0.6 m, and at an altitude of 12 km (40,000ft) the difference is of the order of 1 metre.

Standard Formulae

(J =

(P =

(h =

Abridged Formulae

(J =

(P =

(h = (X cos J1 cos P1 +(Y cos J1 sin P1 + (Z sin J1 + (a1(f + f1(a) sin2 J1 -(a

with J2 = J1 + (J
P2 = P1 + (P

h2 = h1 + (h

where J1,P1,h1 geodetic coordinates in first datum


J2,P2,h2 corresponding coordinates in second datum

a1, f1, ellipsoidal parameters (first datum)


yyyyyyyy(a, (f differences between the ellipsoidal parameters of the two datums (X, (Y, (Z Translation of the origin Y radius of curvature in the prime

vertical, R=
V radius of curvature in the meridian, V

= e eccentricity of the ellipsoid, e2 = 2f f2 It should be noted that, although the ellipsoidal heights may be transformed by using these equations, the latitude and longitude of a point may be transformed even if the corresponding height is not known. The 'abridged' expressions for latitude and longitude do not involve heights, however the 'standard' formulae do treat the height of the point more rigorously.

This method of transforming coordinates only allows the origin to be translated (ie ( X, (Y, (Z) and the shape of the ellipsoid to be changed ((a and (f). A number of modifications have been applied to these basic formulae, to allow for the effect of a scale change, Q, and a rotation about the z axis Uz. Basically, a scale is represented by a uniform radial change, (r, which effects ellipsoidal height by the same amount, but does not affect latitude or longitude. Similarly, a rotation about the

Z axis is equivalent to a change of the zero meridian and a consequent change of all the longitudes by the same amount (P= -Uz. Various specific transformations have adopted these ad-hoc modifications, but they should not be generalised. If more than the basic three translations are necessary, the more rigorous Helmert approach would generally be more appropriate.

6.4 Multiple Regression Formulae

The above methods only accommodate coordinate transformations relating to two geodetic homogeneous datums. In many instances, particularly for the many classical local datums, there are known to be regional changes of local scale and orientation around the region over which coordinates are realised in the datum. Consequently the simple 'global' changes of scale and orientation of the axes cannot effectively allow for the variations. Various methods have been proposed to address this problem, and one of the most popular approaches are the multiple regression formulae (DMA 1987). In simple terms these are polynomial functions which represent the variations, as a function of position, of the differences of latitude, longitude and height (or X, Y and Z coordinates). They are initially computed by fitting a number of coefficients of the polynomial function to a large number of points, with a good geographical distribution, at which coordinates are known in both systems. There application simply involves the evaluation of the function at a particular location to give the transformation as changes in coordinates (ie (J(P ,(h or (X, (Y, (Z). By evaluating these function at a large number of points it is possible to produce a contour chart representing the variations in coordinate difference (DMA 1987). These provide a quick and easy method of transforming coordinates with no computation. Although the regional variation are being allowed for there is clearly only a limited accuracy achievable by this approach.

As an example the DMA local geodetic system to WGS84 datum transformation multiple regression equation is of the form

where A0,A1,...A99 100 possible coefficients


J,Platitude and longitude of point

k scale factor and degree to radian conversion


yyyyyyyyJ m, P m mid-latitude and midlongitude

U = k(J-J m) Normalised latitude V = k(P-P m) Normalised longitude

7 Major National and International Datums

7.1 Ordnance Survey of Great Britain

The first triangulation of Great Britain, known as the Principal Triangulation, was started in 1784, and was adjusted by least squares using logarithmic tables. As a result the British Isles were divided into 21 computing blocks, with each block adjusted by holding the boundary points of previously computed blocks as fixed. The astrogeodetic origin of the datum was defined at the old Greenwich Observatory in London. By the early years of this century, the lack of consistency of the mapping became apparent. Moreover, as most of the original triangulation points had been destroyed, it was decided that a new triangulation was required. The Re-triangulation of Great Britain was observed between 1935 and 1951, and became the Ordnance Survey of Great Britain 1936 (OSGB36) Datum. The triangulation was computed by using logarithmic tables and mechanical calculators. In an attempt to minimise the disturbance to the existing triangulation coordinates, a mean fit was used between the coordinates of 11 triangulation stations of their previous Principal Triangulation coordinates. This provided scale and orientation and an implied mean origin at Greenwich.

With advances in technology in the 1950s and 1960s, and principally the ease with which EDM distances could now be measured, it was apparent that there were large variations of scale throughout Great Britain. Consequently, the triangulation was readjusted by the Ordnance Survey and the University of Nottingham. The resulting geodetic datum is known as OSGB70(SN), the OSGB Scientific Network (Ashkenazi et al, 1972). The coordinates of the origin pillar at the Royal Greenwich Observatory at Herstmonceux were held fixed at the OSGB36 values, so providing a consistent transfer of origin. The advent of satellite positioning in the 1970s highlighted systematic scale and orientation errors in the OSGB70(SN) coordinates. The triangulation was again recomputed, by the Ordnance Survey and the University of Nottingham, and the resulting datum which included Ireland, is known as OS(SN)80. This latter datum combined the traditional triangulation network with positions determined from the TRANSIT doppler system. It is interesting to note that the length of the British Isles (from the south coast to the Shetland Islands) became shorter by 25 m between OSGB36 and OSGB70(SN), but bounced back by 4.5 m between OSGB70(SN) and OS(SN)80. (Ashkenazi et al, 1984). Although the OS(SN)80 coordinates are used for scientific purposes and offshore, the national mapping is still based on the OSGB36 datum, with all its inherent inaccuracies.

With the advent of GPS, and the subsequent change in the practises of land and geodetic surveyors, it was decided that a new National GPS Network, to effectively replace the first and second order triangulation networks. The EUREF network, as described in the following section, provided six sites within Great Britain of the highest accuracy, with coordinates in ETRF89, at intervals of approximately 500km. The Scientific Network of Great Britain (SciNet92) is defined by 22 stations at 100-150km intervals, and the National GPS Network (OSGPS93) has a station distribution of the order of 25km in urban areas and 50km in rural areas. The observation of the National GPS Network was started in 1989, and the Scientific GPS Network was observed in 1992. In addition, transformation parameters and methods been developed to convert existing OSGB36 coordinates to either OS(SN)80 or WGS84 (Christie 1992). The Ordnance Survey Terrestrial Network

(OS(TN)94) has recently been adjusted. This comprises 3500 stations, and all the existing terrestrial observations, of the first and second order triangulation networks and is constrained to the SciNet stations. It is considered (Calvert, 1995) that the terrestrial network OS(TN)94 is not as accurate as the GPS network OS(GPS)93, but it provides a consistent, and very dense, network of ETRF89 coordinates throughout Great Britain.

A new map projection OSGRS80 has also been recently adopted (OS, 1995a). This is based on the geocentric GRS 80 ellipsoid, but with the same Transverse Mercator projection parameters as the existing National Projection. A two dimensional transformation between OSGRS80 Grid and National Grid has also been published, and is claimed to be accurate at around 2 metres. This latter transformation allows the simple transformation of GPS derived coordinates for use with existing OS mapping. A more accurate transformation (at around 0.2 m) is also available from the Ordnance Survey (OS, 1995b)

7.2 European Datum

In the period following the Second World War survey data covering the central area of mainland Europe, acquired by the then US Army Map Service, was used to provide a common datum for the allied military mapping of Europe. The first adjustment of Central Europe was computed in 1947. There was considerable pressure to extend the network. The south-western block and the Scandinavian block were soon added, with the assistance of the International Association of Geodesy (IAG). The completed datum was known as European Datum 1950 (ED50). Great Britain was connected to the ED50 later by two links, one in the Dover-Calais area and the second in the area of the Isle of Wight and the Cotentin Peninsula. This allowed for ED50 coordinates to be obtained in Great Britain, through a transformation to the national datum OSGB36. There are no actual ED50 coordinates in the British Isles resulting from the adjustment of the triangulation network of the European Datum but only ED50 coordinates which can be obtained via OSGB36. When the exploitation of the North Sea area for oil and gas in the 60s became imminent, it was necessary to define internationally agreed median lines between the nations bordering the North Sea. As the military ED50 datum was the only suitable unified datum at the time, it was soon declassified and became freely available for commercial and public usage.

Not long after ED50 was first computed, it was realised that only some of the available data had been used. In 1954 the IAG established a Sub-Commission to investigate a new Triangulation of Europe, to be known as RETrig (Rseau Europen de Triangulation). After 25 years, a new European datum was provisionally defined to give the European Datum 1979, and finally the European Datum 1987 (ED87). At last, this was a rigorously adjusted datum for the whole of Europe, with scale and orientation control provided by space geodetic techniques, and an origin near Munich consistent with ED50. Subsequently, transformation parameters were published between ED87 and the WGS84 global datum. The latter is used by both TRANSIT and GPS.

In 1988, a new IAG Sub-Commission was established to investigate a new high precision European Three Dimensional Reference Frame, EUREF. This will be consistent with the latest space geodetic techniques of Satellite Laser Ranging, Very Long Baseline Interferometry and the Global Positioning system (GPS). A dense network of 93 fundamental points were observed by GPS, during May of 1989. The conclusion of EUREF, is a single unified datum throughout Europe which is consistent with the GPS datum, WGS84 and the International Terrestrial Reference Frame (ITRF) of the International Earth Rotation Service (IERS). The resulting corrdinate frame is known as ETRF89, and for many purposes can be visualised as a realisation of WGS 84, in Europe. Many countries are now adopting the EUREF sites as a 'zero order' network from which they are increasing the densification of the realisation of the coordinates with national GPS networks.

7.3 Global Datums

Global Systems are used by all the major satellite positioning systems and a number of worldwide terrestrial navigation systems. In very general terms, their origins are as close as possible to the centre of mass of the Earth, and their axes oriented to the corresponding axes of the International Earth Rotation Service (IERS) system. Prior to 1988, the axes were oriented to the BIH Conventional Zero Meridian and Conventional International Origin (pole). An ellipsoid is also chosen to provide the best fit to the geoid throughout the world.

Although it is easy to define a global system in such terms, it is very difficult to actually realise such a system as coordinates on the Earth. Global systems are defined by assigning cartesian coordinates to a number of points around the world, and these implicitly define the origin and orientation of the axes. Clearly, unless the definition of these coordinates is based on very precise observations the resulting datum will be distorted due to measurement errors. Consequently, the datums used for satellite positioning have evolved from the US DoD World Geodetic System 1960, WGS60, through WGS66, WGS72 to the current definition of WGS84. This progression has resulted from a gradual increase in the accuracy of observations and led to more precise definitions of the datums.

The World Geodetic Datum 1984 (WGS84) of the United States Department of Defense is now becoming an internationally adopted standard datum for positioning and navigation. The datum is used for both the two principal satellite navigation systems, TRANSIT and GPS. Although it is often viewed as an evolution from WGS72, they are almost independent. Whereas WGS72 was defined by a number of different observation types, WGS84 is based almost exclusively on TRANSIT positions. A total of 1591 TRANSIT positions were determined by the US Defense Mapping Agency, and these coordinates define the WGS84 system. By co-locating TRANSIT receivers with Satellite Laser Ranging and Very Long Baseline Interferometry stations, systematic errors of the TRANSIT precise ephemeris coordinate system (NSWC-9Z2) were identified. As a result the positions were scaled, rotated (about the Z axis) and shifted (along the Z axis) to give WGS84. Because WGS84 is defined by TRANSIT positions, which are inherently accurate to 1-2 metres, the WGS84 datum is only realised to this absolute accuracy. Nevertheless, WGS84 is the best global datum available for worldwide positioning and navigation. During 1994 the Defense Mapping Agency (DMA) have redefined the basic coordinates and gravity field of WGS 84, using

GPS. GPS pseudo range and carrier phase observations, taken during 1992, were used to determine the coordinates of the five stations of the GPS control segment and the additional five DMA sites. The full, and smooth, implementation of this new realisation of WGS 84, by the GPS Master Control Station, is still being investigated.

The International Earth Rotation Service maintain a much more precise global datum, known as the IERS Terrestrial Reference Frame (ITRF). This is defined by the coordinates of Satellite Laser Ranging, Lunar Laser Ranging, Very Long Baseline Interferometry facilities, and more recently GPS sites. This reference system provides the fundamental definition of the position of the centre of mass of the Earth to within 10 cm, and the orientation of the axes to correspondingly high accuracies. The maintenance of a datum at this level of accuracy requires constant monitoring of the rotation of the Earth, the motion of the pole and the movements of the plates of the crust of the Earth. The current definition of the ITRF system is known as ITRF89 (IERS, 1990). In addition, on the 1st of January 1994, the International GPS Geodynamics Service (IGS) was formally introduced, although the service has now been in operation for some time. A permanent 'global' network of around 50 GPS receivers, provide precise GPS measurements on a daily basis to three data collection and archiving centres. The aims of this service include the maintenance of a precise global datum based on GPS, and the dissemination of the tracking data and orbital information to the scientific community.

8 References

V Ashkenazi, 1986. 'Coordinate Systems: How to get your Position Very Precise and Completely Wrong'. The Journal of Navigation, Volume 39, No 2.

V Ashkenazi, S A Crane, W J Preiss and J Williams, 1985, 'The 1980 Readjustment of the Triangulation of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland - OS(SN)80'. Ordnance Survey Professional Papers, New Series, No 31.

V Ashkenazi, P A Cross, M J K Davies and D W Procter, 1972. 'The Adjustment of the Retriangulation of Great Britain, and its Relationship to the European Terrestrial and Satellite Networks'. Ordnance Survey Professional Papers, New Series No 24.

G Bomford, 1980. 'Geodesy (4th Edition)', Clarendon Press, London.

C Calvert, 1995. 'Ordnance Survey Policy and Procedures fof WGS84 to National Grid (OSGB36 Datum) Transformations'. Proc RIN 95, Personal Navigation, Royal Institute of Navigation, London

P A Cross, 1989. 'Position: Just What Does it Mean'. Proc NAV 89, Satellite Navigation, Royal Institute of Navigation, London

R C Christie , 1992. 'The Establishment of a New 3-D Control Framework for GB Based on Modern Space Techniques. Surveying World, November 1992.

Defense Mapping Agency, 1987. Department of Defense World Geodetic System 1984. Technical Report (and supplements), DMA TR-8350.2.

International Earth Rotation Service, 1990. Annual Report for 1989, IERS, Paris.

International Earth Rotation Service, 1993. Annual Report for 1992, IERS, Paris. S Malys and J A Slater, 1994. 'Maintenance and Enhancement of the World Geodetic System 1984'. ION GPS 94, Salt Lake City, September 1994.

Ordnance Survey, 1995a. 'The Ellipsoid and the Transverse Mercator Projection'. Version 1.1, January 1995.

Ordnance Survey, 1995b. 'National Grid / ETRF89 Transformation Parameters'. Version 1.1, January 1995.

E R Swift, 1994. 'Improved WGS 84 Coordinates for the DMA and Air Force GPS Tracking Sites'. ION GPS 94, Salt Lake City, September 1994.

Return to IESSG Home page

IESSG. These pages are regularly maintained. See Whats New ? for recent updates. For any further information on the IESSG, please contact the iessg.webmaster@nottingham.ac.uk. Surface mail enquiries should be made to IESSG, University Park, University of Nottingham, Nottingham. NG7 2RD. UK.

Last edited 19 May 1998 (GWR)