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A HERO for General Relativity

Ministero dell’Istruzione, dell’Università e della Ricerca (M.I.U.R.)-Istruzione, Viale Unità di Italia 68, 70125 Bari (BA), Italy
Universe 2019, 5(7), 165;
Received: 14 June 2019 / Revised: 29 June 2019 / Accepted: 1 July 2019 / Published: 5 July 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Rotation Effects in Relativity)
HERO (Highly Eccentric Relativity Orbiter) is a space-based mission concept aimed to perform several tests of post-Newtonian gravity around the Earth with a preferably drag-free spacecraft moving along a highly elliptical path fixed in its plane undergoing a relatively fast secular precession. We considered two possible scenarios—a fast, 4-h orbit with high perigee height of 1047 km and a slow, 21-h path with a low perigee height of 642 km . HERO may detect, for the first time, the post-Newtonian orbital effects induced by the mass quadrupole moment J 2 of the Earth which, among other things, affects the semimajor axis a via a secular trend of ≃4–12 cm yr 1 , depending on the orbital configuration. Recently, the secular decay of the semimajor axis of the passive satellite LARES was measured with an error as little as 0 . 7 cm yr 1 . Also the post-Newtonian spin dipole (Lense-Thirring) and mass monopole (Schwarzschild) effects could be tested to a high accuracy depending on the level of compensation of the non-gravitational perturbations, not treated here. Moreover, the large eccentricity of the orbit would allow one to constrain several long-range modified models of gravity and accurately measure the gravitational red-shift as well. Each of the six Keplerian orbital elements could be individually monitored to extract the G J 2 / c 2 signature, or they could be suitably combined in order to disentangle the post-Newtonian effect(s) of interest from the competing mismodeled Newtonian secular precessions induced by the zonal harmonic multipoles J of the geopotential. In the latter case, the systematic uncertainty due to the current formal errors σ J of a recent global Earth’s gravity field model are better than 1 % for all the post-Newtonian effects considered, with a peak of 10 7 for the Schwarzschild-like shifts. Instead, the gravitomagnetic spin octupole precessions are too small to be detectable. View Full-Text
Keywords: general relativity and gravitation; experimental studies of gravity; experimental tests of gravitational theories; satellite orbits general relativity and gravitation; experimental studies of gravity; experimental tests of gravitational theories; satellite orbits
MDPI and ACS Style

Iorio, L. A HERO for General Relativity. Universe 2019, 5, 165.

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