Thursday, May 30, 2013

1305.6823 (Antonio Paolozzi et al.)

LARES succesfully launched in orbit: satellite and mission description    [PDF]

Antonio Paolozzi, Ignazio Ciufolini
On February 13th 2012, the LARES satellite of the Italian Space Agency (ASI) was launched into orbit with the qualification flight of the new VEGA launcher of the European Space Agency (ESA). The payload was released very accurately in the nominal orbit. The name LARES means LAser RElativity Satellite and summarises the objective of the mission and some characteristics of the satellite. It is, in fact, a mission designed to test Einstein's General Relativity Theory (specifically 'frame dragging' and Lense-Thirring effect). The satellite is passive and covered with optical retroreflectors that send back laser pulses to the emitting ground station. This allows accurate positioning of the satellite, which is important for measuring the very small deviations from Galilei-Newton's laws. In 2008, ASI selected the prime industrial contractor for the LARES system with a heavy involvement of the universities in all phases of the programme, from the design to the construction and testing of the satellite and separation system. The data exploitation phase started immediately after the launch under a new contract between ASI and those universities. Tracking of the satellite is provided by the International Laser Ranging Service. Due to its particular design, LARES is the orbiting object with the highest known mean density in the solar system. In this paper, it is shown that this peculiarity makes it the best proof particle ever manufactured. Design aspects, mission objectives and preliminary data analysis will be also presented.
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