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Universe 2016, 2(3), 21; doi:10.3390/universe2030021

Testing General Relativity with the Radio Science Experiment of the BepiColombo mission to Mercury

1
IFAC-CNR, Via Madonna del Piano 10, 50019 Sesto Fiorentino (FI), Italy
2
Department of Mathematics, University of Pisa, Largo Bruno Pontecorvo 5, 56127 Pisa, Italy
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Lorenzo Iorio and Elias C. Vagenas
Received: 29 June 2016 / Revised: 31 August 2016 / Accepted: 1 September 2016 / Published: 12 September 2016
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Abstract

The relativity experiment is part of the Mercury Orbiter Radio science Experiment (MORE) on-board the ESA/JAXA BepiColombo mission to Mercury. Thanks to very precise radio tracking from the Earth and accelerometer, it will be possible to perform an accurate test of General Relativity, by constraining a number of post-Newtonian and related parameters with an unprecedented level of accuracy. The Celestial Mechanics Group of the University of Pisa developed a new dedicated software, ORBIT14, to perform the simulations and to determine simultaneously all the parameters of interest within a global least squares fit. After highlighting some critical issues, we report on the results of a full set of simulations, carried out in the most up-to-date mission scenario. For each parameter we discuss the achievable accuracy, in terms of a formal analysis through the covariance matrix and, furthermore, by the introduction of an alternative, more representative, estimation of the errors. We show that, for example, an accuracy of some parts in 10 6 for the Eddington parameter β and of 10 5 for the Nordtvedt parameter η can be attained, while accuracies at the level of 5 × 10 7 and 1 × 10 7 can be achieved for the preferred frames parameters α 1 and α 2 , respectively. View Full-Text
Keywords: general relativity and gravitation; experimental studies of gravity; Mercury; BepiColombo mission general relativity and gravitation; experimental studies of gravity; Mercury; BepiColombo mission
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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Schettino, G.; Tommei, G. Testing General Relativity with the Radio Science Experiment of the BepiColombo mission to Mercury. Universe 2016, 2, 21.

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