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Spacecraft clocks and relativity: Prospects for future satellite missions


Angélil, Raymond; Saha, Prasenjit; Bondarescu, Ruxandra; Jetzer, Philippe; Schärer, Andreas; Lundgren, Andrew (2014). Spacecraft clocks and relativity: Prospects for future satellite missions. Physical Review D (Particles, Fields, Gravitation and Cosmology), 89(6):1-8.

Abstract

The successful miniaturization of extremely accurate atomic clocks invites prospects for satellite missions to perform precise timing experiments. This will allow effects predicted by general relativity to be detected in Earth's gravitational field. In this paper we introduce a convenient formalism for studying these effects, and compute the fractional timing differences generated by them for the orbit of a satellite capable of accurate time transfer to a terrestrial receiving station on Earth, as proposed by planned missions. We find that (1) Schwarzschild perturbations will be measurable through their effects both on the orbit and on the signal propagation, (2) frame-dragging of the orbit will be readily measurable, and (3) in optimistic scenarios, the spin-squared metric effects may be measurable for the first time ever. Our estimates suggest that a clock with a fractional timing inaccuracy of 10-16 on a highly eccentric Earth orbit will measure all these effects, while for a low Earth circular orbit like that of the Atomic Clock Ensemble in Space mission, detection will be more challenging.

The successful miniaturization of extremely accurate atomic clocks invites prospects for satellite missions to perform precise timing experiments. This will allow effects predicted by general relativity to be detected in Earth's gravitational field. In this paper we introduce a convenient formalism for studying these effects, and compute the fractional timing differences generated by them for the orbit of a satellite capable of accurate time transfer to a terrestrial receiving station on Earth, as proposed by planned missions. We find that (1) Schwarzschild perturbations will be measurable through their effects both on the orbit and on the signal propagation, (2) frame-dragging of the orbit will be readily measurable, and (3) in optimistic scenarios, the spin-squared metric effects may be measurable for the first time ever. Our estimates suggest that a clock with a fractional timing inaccuracy of 10-16 on a highly eccentric Earth orbit will measure all these effects, while for a low Earth circular orbit like that of the Atomic Clock Ensemble in Space mission, detection will be more challenging.

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6 citations in Web of Science®
5 citations in Scopus®
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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute for Computational Science
Dewey Decimal Classification:530 Physics
Language:English
Date:March 2014
Deposited On:13 Aug 2014 15:06
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 18:01
Publisher:American Physical Society
ISSN:1550-2368
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevD.89.064067
Permanent URL: https://doi.org/10.5167/uzh-98138

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