Gaia, the 1 billion star, high precision, astrometric satellite will revolutionise our understanding in many areas of astronomy ranging from bodies in our Solar System to the formation and structure of our Galaxy. To fully achieve the ambitious goals of the mission, and to completely eliminate effects such as aberration, we must know the position and velocity vectors of the spacecraft as it orbits the Lagrange point to an accuracy greater than can be obtained by traditional radar techniques, leading to the decision to conduct astrometric observations of the Gaia satellite itself from the ground. Therefore the Ground Based Optical Tracking (GBOT) project was formed and a small worldwide network using 1-2 m telescopes established in order to obtain one measurement per day of a precision/accuracy of 20 mas. We will discuss all aspects of GBOT, setup, feasibility considerations, preliminary tests of observing methods, partner observatories, the pipeline/database (see also contribution by Bouquillon et al.1).
The ESA Gaia satellite mission will create a catalog of 1 billion stars with unprecedented astrometric precision. To achieve its aim in terms of astrometric precision, a ground based optical tracking campaign (GBOT) of the satellite itself is necessary during the five years of the mission. We present an overview of the GBOT project as a whole in another contribution1 (Altmann et al. in SPIE category "observatory operations"). The present paper will focus more specifically on the software solutions developed by the GBOT group.