Regular Article - Theoretical Physics
Measuring the De Sitter precession with a new Earth’s satellite to the level: a proposal
Ministero dell’Istruzione, dell’Università e della Ricerca (M.I.U.R.)-Istruzione, Viale Unità di Italia 68, 70125, Bari, BA, Italy
* e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Accepted: 7 January 2019
Published online: 28 January 2019
The inclination I of an Earth’s satellite in polar orbit undergoes a secular De Sitter precession of milliarcseconds per year for a suitable choice of the initial value of its non-circulating node . The competing long-periodic harmonic rates of change of I due to the even and odd zonal harmonics of the geopotential vanish for either a circular or polar orbit, while no secular rates occur at all. This may open up, in principle, the possibility of measuring the geodesic precession in the weak-field limit with an accurately tracked satellite by improving the current bound of from Lunar Laser Ranging, which, on the other hand, may be even rather optimistic, by one order of magnitude, or, perhaps, even better. The most insidious competing effects are due to the solid and ocean components of the tide since their perturbations have nominal huge amplitudes and the same temporal pattern of the De Sitter signature. They vanish for polar orbits. Departures of from the ideal polar geometry allow to keep the tidal perturbations to a sufficiently small level. Most of the other gravitational and non-gravitational perturbations vanish for the proposed orbital configuration, while the non-vanishing ones either have different temporal signatures with respect to the De Sitter effect or can be modeled with sufficient accuracy. In order to meet the proposed goal, the measurement accuracy of I should be better than over, say, 5 year.
© The Author(s), 2019