Towards a One Percent Measurement of Frame Dragging by Spin with Satellite Laser Ranging to LAGEOS, LAGEOS 2 and LARES and GRACE Gravity Models
During the past century Einstein’s theory of General Relativity gave rise to an experimental triumph; however, there are still aspects of this theory to be measured or more accurately tested. Today one of the main challenges in experimental gravitation, together with the direct detection of gravitational waves, is the accurate measurement of the gravitomagnetic field generated by the angular momentum of a body. Here, after a brief introduction on frame-dragging, gravitomagnetism and Lunar Laser Ranging tests, we describe the past measurements of frame-dragging by the Earth spin using the satellites LAGEOS, LAGEOS 2 and the Earth’s gravity models obtained by the GRACE project. We demonstrate that these measurements have an accuracy of approximately 10%. We then describe the LARES experiment to be launched in 2010 by the Italian Space Agency for a measurement of frame-dragging with an accuracy of a few percent. We finally demonstrate that a number of claims by a single individual, that the error budget of the frame-dragging measurements with LAGEOS-LAGEOS 2 and LARES has been underestimated, are indeed ill-founded.