Very long baseline interferometry (VLBI) tracking of satellites is a topic of increasing interest for the establishment of space ties. This shall strengthen the connection of the various space geodetic techniques that contribute to the International Terrestrial Reference Frame. The concept of observing near-Earth satellites demands research on possible observing strategies. In this paper, we introduce this concept and discuss its possible benefits for improving future realizations of the International Terrestrial Reference System. Using simulated observations, we develop possible observing strategies that allow the determination of radio telescope positions in the satellite system on Earth with accuracies of a few millimeters up to 1–2 cm for weekly station coordinates. This is shown for satellites with orbital heights between 2,000 and 6,000 km, observed by dense regional as well as by global VLBI-networks. The number of observations, as mainly determined by the satellite orbit and the observation interval, is identified as the most critical parameter that affects the expected accuracies. For observations of global positioning system satellites, we propose the combination with classical VLBI to radio sources or a multi-satellite strategy. Both approaches allow station position repeatabilities of a few millimeters for weekly solutions.
very long baseline interferometry, terrestrial reference frame, VLBI-satellite tracking, space tie