Testing General Relativity and gravitational physics using the LARES satellite

  • Ignazio Ciufolini
  • Antonio Paolozzi
  • Erricos Pavlis
  • John Ries
  • Vahe Gurzadyan
  • Rolf Koenig
  • Richard Matzner
  • Roger Penrose
  • Giampiero Sindoni
Regular Article


The discovery of the accelerating expansion of the Universe, thought to be driven by a mysterious form of “dark energy” constituting most of the Universe, has further revived the interest in testing Einstein’s theory of General Relativity. At the very foundation of Einstein’s theory is the geodesic motion of a small, structureless test-particle. Depending on the physical context, a star, planet or satellite can behave very nearly like a test-particle, so geodesic motion is used to calculate the advance of the perihelion of a planet’s orbit, the dynamics of a binary pulsar system and of an Earth-orbiting satellite. Verifying geodesic motion is then a test of paramount importance to General Relativity and other theories of fundamental physics. On the basis of the first few months of observations of the recently launched satellite LARES, its orbit shows the best agreement of any satellite with the test-particle motion predicted by General Relativity. That is, after modelling its known non-gravitational perturbations, the LARES orbit shows the smallest deviations from geodesic motion of any artificial satellite: its residual mean acceleration away from geodesic motion is less than \(\ensuremath 0.5\times10^{-12}\) m/s^2. LARES-type satellites can thus be used for accurate measurements and for tests of gravitational and fundamental physics. Already with only a few months of observation, LARES provides smaller scatter in the determination of several low-degree geopotential coefficients (Earth gravitational deviations from sphericity) than available from observations of any other satellite or combination of satellites.


Dark Energy Satellite Laser Range Proof Mass Geodesic Motion Atmospheric Drag 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Società Italiana di Fisica and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ignazio Ciufolini
    • 1
  • Antonio Paolozzi
    • 2
  • Erricos Pavlis
    • 3
  • John Ries
    • 4
  • Vahe Gurzadyan
    • 5
  • Rolf Koenig
    • 6
  • Richard Matzner
    • 7
  • Roger Penrose
    • 8
  • Giampiero Sindoni
    • 2
  1. 1.Dipartimento di Ingegneria dell’InnovazioneUniversity of Salento, and INFNLecceItaly
  2. 2.Scuola di Ingegneria Aerospaziale and DIAEESapienza Università di RomaRomeItaly
  3. 3.Planetary Geodynamics LaboratoryNASA Goddard Space Flight CenterGreenbeltUSA
  4. 4.Center for Space ResearchThe University of Texas at AustinAustinUSA
  5. 5.Center for Cosmology and AstrophysicsAlikhanian National LaboratoryYerevanArmenia
  6. 6.Helmholtz Centre Potsdam GFZ German Research Centre for GeosciencesHelmholtzGermany
  7. 7.Center for RelativityThe University of Texas at AustinAustinUSA
  8. 8.Mathematical InstituteUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK

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