LARES2, the satellite of the Italian Space Agency (ASI), ready to launch into space, has been presented at the headquarters of OHB in Milan.
The satellite will be launched into orbit from the ESA Space Centre in Kourou, French Guiana, on board Vega C, the evolution of the European Vega launcher, built by the company Avio based in Colleferro, near Rome.
The news was announced by the Enrico Fermi Research Centre which is involved in the project with physicist Ignazio Ciufolini, Principal Investigator for the mission, and Claudio Paris, an engineer responsible for the design of the satellite and the testing of materials and its components.
The new satellite will revive, with more ambitious goals, the challenge of LARES (LAser RElativity Satellite): a small all-Italian space mission that has produced tests and measurements in the field of general relativity – Einstein’s theory of gravity, – and other theories of fundamental physics with a certain experimental error. The task of LARES2 will be to reduce the error of these measurements and tests by a factor of about ten compared to LARES1, which could enable a distinction to be made between different physical theories.
One of the goals of the new satellite is the measurement of the frame-dragging effect: a phenomenon of spacetime deformation generated by mass-energy currents, such as the rotation of a mass, as predicted by Einstein’s theory of general relativity. LARES2 will be able to measure this effect – which is very small around the Earth and therefore a direct and accurate measurement is difficult to obtain – with an accuracy of few parts per thousand. The mission will also measure the gravitomagnetic field – another key phenomenon for Einstein’s theory of general relativity – with unprecedented accuracy, and will provide important estimates in the field of space geodesy and geophysics.