Timeline of Gravity Probe B

Last updated

The Gravity Probe B mission timeline describes the events during the flight of Gravity Probe B, the science phase of its experimental campaign, and the analysis of the recorded data.


Mission progress

Launch of Gravity Probe B Delta II 7920 into flight.jpg
Launch of Gravity Probe B

Increasing the Precision of the Results : "In reality, GP-B experienced six major or significant anomalies during the 353-day science data collection period, and these anomalies caused the experimental data set to be divided into seven major segments, with a total of 307 days of "good" science data when all seven segments are combined. This segmentation reduced the best precision obtainable from the 1% goal down to about 2% for the frame-dragging effect and 0.02% for the geodetic effect. This reduced level of precision, if achieved would be extraordinary."



On February 9, 2007 it was announced that a number of unexpected signals had been received and that these would need to be separated out before final results could be released. Consequently, the date for the final release of data has been pushed back from April 2007 to December 2007.

Speculation on some internet sites, such as PhysicsForums.org, has centered around the source and nature of these anomalous signals. Several posters and alternative theorists (some skeptical of GPB and its methodology) have indicated that understanding these signals may be more interesting than the original goal of testing GR.

Stanford has agreed to release the raw data to the public at an unspecified date in the future. It is likely that this data will be examined by independent scientists and independently reported to the public well after the December 2007 release. Because future interpretations of the data by scientists outside GPB may differ from the official results, it may take several more years for all of the data received by GPB to be completely understood.

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Voyager program</span> Ongoing NASA interstellar program

The Voyager program is an American scientific program that employs two robotic interstellar probes, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2. They were launched in 1977 to take advantage of a favorable alignment of the two gas giants Jupiter and Saturn and the ice giants, Uranus and Neptune, to fly near them while collecting data for transmission back to Earth. After launch the decision was made to send Voyager 2 near Uranus and Neptune to collect data for transmission back to Earth.

<i>Ulysses</i> (spacecraft) 1990 robotic space probe; studied the Sun from a near-polar orbit

Ulysses was a robotic space probe whose primary mission was to orbit the Sun and study it at all latitudes. It was launched in 1990 and made three "fast latitude scans" of the Sun in 1994/1995, 2000/2001, and 2007/2008. In addition, the probe studied several comets. Ulysses was a joint venture of the European Space Agency (ESA) and the United States' National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), under leadership of ESA with participation from Canada's National Research Council. The last day for mission operations on Ulysses was 30 June 2009.

<i>Mars Express</i> European Mars orbiter

Mars Express is a space exploration mission being conducted by the European Space Agency (ESA). The Mars Express mission is exploring the planet Mars, and is the first planetary mission attempted by the agency. "Express" originally referred to the speed and efficiency with which the spacecraft was designed and built. However, "Express" also describes the spacecraft's relatively short interplanetary voyage, a result of being launched when the orbits of Earth and Mars brought them closer than they had been in about 60,000 years.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cosmic Background Explorer</span> NASA satellite of the Explorer program

The Cosmic Background Explorer, also referred to as Explorer 66, was a NASA satellite dedicated to cosmology, which operated from 1989 to 1993. Its goals were to investigate the cosmic microwave background radiation of the universe and provide measurements that would help shape our understanding of the cosmos.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">SMART-1</span> European Space Agency satellite that orbited around the Moon

SMART-1 was a Swedish-designed European Space Agency satellite that orbited around the Moon. It was launched on 27 September 2003 at 23:14 UTC from the Guiana Space Centre in Kourou, French Guiana. "SMART-1" stands for Small Missions for Advanced Research in Technology-1. On 3 September 2006, SMART-1 was deliberately crashed into the Moon's surface, ending its mission.

<i>Magellan</i> (spacecraft) NASA mission to map the surface of Venus via robotic probe (launched 1989)

The Magellan spacecraft was a 1,035-kilogram (2,282 lb) robotic space probe launched by NASA of the United States, on May 4, 1989, to map the surface of Venus by using synthetic-aperture radar and to measure the planetary gravitational field.

<i>Mars Climate Orbiter</i> Robotic space probe launched by NASA on December 11, 1998

The Mars Climate Orbiter was a robotic space probe launched by NASA on December 11, 1998, to study the Martian climate, Martian atmosphere, and surface changes and to act as the communications relay in the Mars Surveyor '98 program for Mars Polar Lander. However, on September 23, 1999, communication with the spacecraft was permanently lost as it went into orbital insertion. The spacecraft encountered Mars on a trajectory that brought it too close to the planet, and it was either destroyed in the atmosphere or escaped the planet's vicinity and entered an orbit around the Sun. An investigation attributed the failure to a measurement mismatch between two software systems: metric units by NASA and US customary units by spacecraft builder Lockheed Martin.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Phobos program</span> 1988 Soviet missions to Mars

The Phobos program was an unmanned space mission consisting of two probes launched by the Soviet Union to study Mars and its moons Phobos and Deimos. Phobos 1 was launched on 7 July 1988, and Phobos 2 on 12 July 1988, each aboard a Proton-K rocket.

<i>MESSENGER</i> Seventh mission of the Discovery program; orbital reconnaissance of the planet Mercury (2004–2015)

MESSENGER was a NASA robotic space probe that orbited the planet Mercury between 2011 and 2015, studying Mercury's chemical composition, geology, and magnetic field. The name is a backronym for "Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry, and Ranging", and a reference to the messenger god Mercury from Roman mythology.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Gravity Probe B</span> Orbital gravitational observatory

Gravity Probe B (GP-B) was a satellite-based experiment to test two unverified predictions of general relativity: the geodetic effect and frame-dragging. This was to be accomplished by measuring, very precisely, tiny changes in the direction of spin of four gyroscopes contained in an Earth-orbiting satellite at 650 km (400 mi) of altitude, crossing directly over the poles.

<i>Dawn</i> (spacecraft) NASA mission to study main-belt asteroids via a robotic probe (2007-18)

Dawn is a retired space probe that was launched by NASA in September 2007 with the mission of studying two of the three known protoplanets of the asteroid belt: Vesta and Ceres. In the fulfillment of that mission—the ninth in NASA's Discovery Program—Dawn entered orbit around Vesta on July 16, 2011, and completed a 14-month survey mission before leaving for Ceres in late 2012. It entered orbit around Ceres on March 6, 2015. In 2017, NASA announced that the planned nine-year mission would be extended until the probe's hydrazine fuel supply was depleted. On November 1, 2018, NASA announced that Dawn had depleted its hydrazine, and the mission was ended. The derelict probe remains in a stable orbit around Ceres.

<i>Lunar Prospector</i> Third mission of the Discovery program; polar orbital reconnaissance of the Moon

Lunar Prospector was the third mission selected by NASA for full development and construction as part of the Discovery Program. At a cost of $62.8 million, the 19-month mission was designed for a low polar orbit investigation of the Moon, including mapping of surface composition including Lunar hydrogen deposits, measurements of magnetic and gravity fields, and study of lunar outgassing events. The mission ended July 31, 1999, when the orbiter was deliberately crashed into a crater near the lunar south pole, after the presence of hydrogen was successfully detected.

The Pioneer anomaly, or Pioneer effect, was the observed deviation from predicted accelerations of the Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11 spacecraft after they passed about 20 astronomical units (3×109 km; 2×109 mi) on their trajectories out of the Solar System. The apparent anomaly was a matter of much interest for many years but has been subsequently explained by anisotropic radiation pressure caused by the spacecraft's heat loss.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">GRACE and GRACE-FO</span> Joint American-German space mission to map Earths gravitational field

The Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) was a joint mission of NASA and the German Aerospace Center (DLR). Twin satellites took detailed measurements of Earth's gravity field anomalies from its launch in March 2002 to the end of its science mission in October 2017. The GRACE Follow-On (GRACE-FO) is a continuation of the mission on near-identical hardware, launched in May 2018.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Geosat</span>

The GEOSAT was a U.S. Navy Earth observation satellite, launched on March 12, 1985 into an 800 km, 108° inclination orbit, with a nodal period of about 6040 seconds. The satellite carried a radar altimeter capable of measuring the distance from the satellite to sea surface with a relative precision of about 5 cm. The initial phase was an 18-month classified Geodetic Mission (GM) have a ground-track with a near-23-day repeat with closure to within 50 kilometers. The effect of atmospheric drag was such that by fall 1986 GEOSAT was in an almost exact 23-day repeat orbit.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Timeline of Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter</span> Timeline of important events in the history of the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter

Timeline for the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) lists the significant events of the launch, aerobraking, and transition phases as well as subsequent significant operational mission events; by date and brief description.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">GRAIL</span> 2011–12 NASA mission to study the Moons geology

The Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) was an American lunar science mission in NASA's Discovery Program which used high-quality gravitational field mapping of the Moon to determine its interior structure. The two small spacecraft GRAIL A (Ebb) and GRAIL B (Flow) were launched on 10 September 2011 aboard a single launch vehicle: the most-powerful configuration of a Delta II, the 7920H-10. GRAIL A separated from the rocket about nine minutes after launch, GRAIL B followed about eight minutes later. They arrived at their orbits around the Moon 25 hours apart. The first probe entered orbit on 31 December 2011 and the second followed on 1 January 2012. The two spacecraft impacted the Lunar surface on December 17, 2012.

Safe mode is an operating mode of a modern uncrewed spacecraft during which all non-essential systems are shut down and only essential functions such as thermal management, radio reception and attitude control are active.

Frame-dragging is an effect on spacetime, predicted by Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity, that is due to non-static stationary distributions of mass–energy. A stationary field is one that is in a steady state, but the masses causing that field may be non-static ⁠— rotating, for instance. More generally, the subject that deals with the effects caused by mass–energy currents is known as gravitoelectromagnetism, which is analogous to the magnetism of classical electromagnetism.

Spacecraft attitude control is the process of controlling the orientation of a spacecraft with respect to an inertial frame of reference or another entity such as the celestial sphere, certain fields, and nearby objects, etc.


  1. "APS April Meeting 2007". Archived from the original on February 20, 2007. Retrieved 2006-11-16.
  2. "Was Einstein right? Scientists provide first public peek at Gravity Probe B results" (PDF). Stanford University. Retrieved November 12, 2022.
  3. Everitt; et al. (May 11, 2011). "Gravity Probe B: Final Results of a Space Experiment to Test General Relativity". Physical Review Letters. 106 (22): 221101. arXiv: 1105.3456 . Bibcode:2011PhRvL.106v1101E. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.106.221101. PMID   21702590. S2CID   11878715.
  4. C. W. F. Everitt; D. B. DeBra; B. W. Parkinson; J. P. Turneaure; J. W. Conklin; M. I. Heifetz; G. M. Keiser; A. S. Silbergleit; T. Holmes; J. Kolodziejczak; M. Al-Meshari; J. C. Mester; B. Muhlfelder; V. Solomonik; K. Stahl; P. Worden; W. Bencze; S. Buchman; B. Clarke; A. Al-Jadaan; H. Al-Jibreen; J. Li; J. A. Lipa; J. M. Lockhart; B. Al-Suwaidan; M. Taber; S. Wang (May 17, 2011). "Gravity Probe B: Final Results of a Space Experiment to Test General Relativity". Physical Review Letters. 106 (22): 221101. arXiv: 1105.3456 . Bibcode:2011PhRvL.106v1101E. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.106.221101. PMID   21702590. S2CID   11878715.