Gravity Probe B Mission Completes Data Collection

October 3, 2005
Gravity Probe B mission, testing Einstein's theory of gravity, completes first year in space

Almost 90 years after Albert Einstein first postulated his general theory of relativity, scientists have finished collecting data to put it to a new, different kind of experimental test.
NASA's Gravity Probe B satellite has been orbiting the Earth for more than 17 months. It used four ultra-precise gyroscopes to generate the data required for this unprecedented test.

Fifty weeks worth of data has been downloaded from the spacecraft and relayed to computers in the Mission Operations Center at Stanford University, Stanford, Calif. Scientists have begun the painstaking task of data analysis and validation, which is expected to take approximately one year.

"This has been a tremendous mission for all of us," said Francis Everitt, Gravity Probe B principal investigator at Stanford. "With all the data gathered, we are proceeding deliberately to ensure everything is checked and re-checked. NASA and Stanford can be proud of what has been achieved so far."

Launched on April 20, 2004, from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., Gravity Probe B has been using four spherical gyroscopes to precisely measure two extraordinary effects predicted by Einstein's theory. One is the geodetic effect, the amount by which the Earth warps the local space time in which it resides. The other, called frame-dragging, is the amount by which the rotating Earth drags local space time around with it.

"We are proud to have been associated with this extremely significant mission," said Bob Schultz, Lockheed Martin's Gravity Probe B program manager. "Working with Stanford and NASA, we formed a powerful team to develop the challenging technologies needed to take a giant step forward in helping understand Einstein's theory of general relativity."

NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala., manages the Gravity Probe B program. Stanford conceived the experiment and is NASA's prime contractor for the mission. Stanford was responsible for the design and integration of the science instruments and mission operations. The university has the lead for data analysis. Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company designed, integrated and tested the space vehicle and built some major payload components.

For information about Gravity Probe B, visit:

Source: NASA

Explore further: Average chemical composition of the universe to be the same as that of the sun

Related Stories

"Hedgehog" robots hop, tumble in microgravity

September 4, 2015

Hopping, tumbling and flipping over are not typical maneuvers you would expect from a spacecraft exploring other worlds. Traditional Mars rovers, for example, roll around on wheels, and they can't operate upside-down. But ...

Probing gravity

July 30, 2012

( -- Einstein's theory of relativity is remarkable not only because it is so successful in explaining seemingly bizarre observations (like the bending of starlight) or because it has assembled a coherent picture ...

Gravity Probe B confirms two Einstein theories

May 4, 2011

( -- Stanford and NASA researchers have confirmed two predictions of Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity, concluding one of the space agency's longest-running projects.

Recommended for you

CERN collides heavy nuclei at new record high energy

November 25, 2015

The world's most powerful accelerator, the 27 km long Large Hadron Collider (LHC) operating at CERN in Geneva established collisions between lead nuclei, this morning, at the highest energies ever. The LHC has been colliding ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.