The World Magnetic Model

The following resources detail the history and ongoing development of the World Magnetic Model.

  • NGA overview. NGA. The official website for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.
  • World Magnetic Model technical overview. NOAA / NCEI. Provides a detailed overview of geomagnetic forces and important considerations for creating the WMM.
  • World Magnetic Model video overview. COLABS Colorado. Provides an approachable overview of how the WMM is created and what applications it informs.
  • World Magnetic Model summary. British Geological Survey (BGS). Provides an approachable summary of the World Magnetic Model purpose and development process.
  • World Magnetic Model applications. NOAA / NCEI. Describes common applications of the World Magnetic Model, including uses for navigation and within consumer electronics.
  • 2015 World Magnetic Model Report. NOAA / BGS. Contains a complete report of the World Magnetic Model.
  • World Magnetic Model update. Nature International Journal of Science. Describes the erratic motion of the north magnetic pole that necessitated an out-of-cycle update to the WMM.
  • World Magnetic Model Mil-Spec. NGA. Details the specifications required for the World Magnetic Model.
  • World Magnetic Model data collection procurement notice. A public notice indicating that the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), in accordance with FAR Subpart 5.404 release of long-range acquisition estimates, is planning the procurement of a World Magnetic Model (WMM) global magnetic field data collection capability and is providing public notice to assist industry in its planning to facilitate meeting the acquisition requirements.


The following resources detail technologies that are used to collect data for the World Magnetic Model or may be potential alternatives. A resource with guidance for on technology readiness definitions is also included.

Potential solution areas

The following examples demonstrate a range of solutions that could be submitted. Note that this list is illustrative, and is not a comprehensive list of all potential solution areas

  • Spaceborne. A solution that integrates one or more small or large satellites, or proposes adding instrumentation to an unrelated mission as a hosted payload.
  • Terrestrial. A solution that indicates how the existing ground observatories or mobile technology could be leveraged.
  • Aerial. A solution that proposes drones, balloons, or other aerial technology.
  • Data analysis. A solution that proposes how available data sources could be utilized through new advancement in data modeling and processing techniques. (Reminder: the Challenge does not ask solvers for alternate methods of creating the WMM; it asks solvers to identify new data sources to inform the current WMM production.)

Target performance metrics

MagQuest seeks solutions that will capture data sufficient to produce the World Magnetic Model. The performance specifications below represent thresholds for solutions to consider.

In Phase 2, these specifications were intended to provide guidance and for solvers to consider how they could demonstrate performance in a potential Phase 3. These target performance metrics are an updated version of the information provided in Phase 1.

Measurement Specification
Measurement location Sufficient number of homogeneously distributed points around Earth for a model complete to degree and order 12 along with its secular variation meeting the WMM performance specification

  1. Spaceborne solution: low-Earth (up to 800 km altitude), near-polar orbits with polar gaps not exceeding 9 degrees
  2. Terrestrial / aerial solution: each point within 2 degrees from the nodes of an equal area spherical or ellipsoidal grid of at least 70 points
Measurement positioning and timing accuracy Preferably provided by dual frequency GPS receiver and with specifications similar to previous satellite mission performance (e.g., Ørsted, Swarm)
Measurement accuracy

In geographic frame, after accounting for orientation/attitude error, crustal biases, spacecraft/aircraft fields, biases due to temperature effects, mechanical noise, and any other systematic noise source

  1. Spaceborne solution: < 20 nT per component
  2. Terrestrial solution: < 5 nT per component
  3. Aerial solution: < 20 nT per component
Measurement precision

In geographic frame, see also preamble of “Measurement accuracy” for details

 < 1 nT per component precision

Measurement sampling rate
  1. Spaceborne solution: at least 1 measurement per second
  2. Terrestrial solution: at least one measurement per minute
  3. Aerial solution: (a) at least 1 measurement per second when passing near the nodes of the equal area grid defined above; (b) at least 1 measurement passing by each node every 30 days
Measurement range -70,000 to 70,000 nT
Measurement time span

Minimum requirement: at least 3 years 

Preferred: continuous measurement solutions

Measurement data latency

Minimum requirement: less than one year

Preferred: less than 3 months