Gravity Probe B Mission Completes Data Collection

Oct 03, 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: einstein.stanford.edu

Source: NASA

Explore further: New approach to form non-equilibrium structures

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Fermi data tantalize with new clues to dark matter

Apr 03, 2014

(Phys.org) —A new study of gamma-ray light from the center of our galaxy makes the strongest case to date that some of this emission may arise from dark matter, an unknown substance making up most of the ...

New measurement of electron–quark scattering

Feb 05, 2014

From matching wings on butterflies to the repeating six-point pattern of snowflakes, symmetries echo through nature, even down to the smallest building blocks of matter. Since the discovery of quarks, the ...

Probing gravity

Jul 30, 2012

(Phys.org) -- 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 ...

K-B mirrors harness X-rays for science

Oct 12, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Up close, they look simple as can be: a pair of metal bars, each with one side polished to a brilliant shine. One bar faces up, the other to one side.

Recommended for you

New approach to form non-equilibrium structures

11 hours ago

Although most natural and synthetic processes prefer to settle into equilibrium—a state of unchanging balance without potential or energy—it is within the realm of non-equilibrium conditions where new possibilities lie. ...

Nike krypton laser achieves spot in Guinness World Records

13 hours ago

A set of experiments conducted on the Nike krypton fluoride (KrF) laser at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) nearly five years ago has, at long last, earned the coveted Guinness World Records title for achieving "Highest ...

Unleashing the power of quantum dot triplets

17 hours ago

Quantum computers have yet to materialise. Yet, scientists are making progress in devising suitable means of making such computers faster. One such approach relies on quantum dots—a kind of artificial atom, ...

Chemist develops X-ray vision for quality assurance

17 hours ago

It is seldom sufficient to read the declaration of contents if you need to know precisely what substances a product contains. In fact, to do this you need to be a highly skilled chemist or to have genuine ...

The future of ultrashort laser pulses

17 hours ago

Rapid advances in techniques for the creation of ultra-short laser pulses promise to boost our knowledge of electron motions to an unprecedented level.

User comments : 0