Istituto di Scienza e Tecnologie dell'Informazione     
Lucchesi D. M., Anselmo L., Bassan M., Pardini C., Peron R., Pucacco G., Visco M. Testing gravitation with satellite laser ranging and the Larase experiment. In: MG14 - 14th Marcel Grossmann Meeting (Rome, Italy, 12-18 July 2015).
The International Laser Ranging Service (ILRS) provides range measurements of passive satellites around the Earth through the powerful Satellite Laser Ranging (SLR) technique. These very precise measurements of the distance between an on-ground laser station and a satellite equipped with cube corner retro-reflectors (CCRs) allow for precise tests and measurements in fundamental physics and, in particular, in gravitational physics. The LAGEOS (NASA 1976) and LAGEOS II (NASA/ASI 1992) satellites are outstanding examples of very good test particles because of their very low area-to-mass ratio as well as the high quality of their tracking data and, consequently, of the precise orbit determination (POD) we can obtain after a refined modeling of their orbit. The aim of our research program LARASE (LAser RAnged Satellites Experiment) is to go a step further in testing gravitation in the field of Earth by means of the joint analysis of the orbits of the two LAGEOS satellites together with that of the most recently launched LARES (ASI, 2012) satellite. Therefore, our work falls in the so-called weak field and slow motion (WFSM) limit of Einstein's general relativity (GR) where, in terms of Newtonian physics, relativistic effects appear as two new fields to be added to the classical gravitational field: the gravitoelectric and the gravitomagnetic fields. A fundamental ingredient to reach such a goal is to provide high-quality updated models for the perturbing non-gravitational perturbations (NGP) acting on the surface of such satellites. In fact, regardless of their minimization thanks to a smaller value for the area-to-mass ratio, the subtle and complex to model perturbing effects of the NGP still play a crucial role in the POD of the considered satellites, especially in the case of the thermal thrust effects. A large amount of SLR data of LAGEOS and LAGEOS II has been worked out using a set of dedicated models for the satellite dynamics and the related post-fit residuals have been analyzed. A parallel work is on-going in the case of LARES. The effects predicted by GR leave a peculiar imprint on the satellite orbit, namely in the precession of the three Euler angles that define the orbit orientation in the inertial space: the right ascension of the ascending node, the argument of pericenter and the inclination. Our recent work on the orbit modeling and on the data analysis of the orbit of such satellites will be presented together with new measurements of the relativistic precessions and updated constraints on non-Newtonian gravitational dynamics. The measurement error budget will be also discussed, emphasizing the role of the modeling of both gravitational and non-gravitational forces on the overall precise orbit determination quality.
Subject General Relativity
Artificial satellites
Satellite Laser Ranging
Gravitational and Non-gravitational Perturbations
70F15 Celestial mechanics

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