Einstein’s theory of general relativity will be tested by a satellite placed in orbit on Monday, and the experiment has the potential to “shake the foundations of physics,” the company behind the project said.
According to the equivalence principle of Einstein’s theory, two objects should move exactly the same way in a free fall, but terrestrial tests often face limitations.
“In space it is possible to study the relative motion of two bodies in almost perfect and permanent free fall aboard an orbiting satellite, shielded from perturbations encountered on Earth,” said Arianespace, the French company that launched the satellite, according to AFP
The satellite, known as Microscope, carries two objects — one titanium and one a platinum-rhodium alloy — whose movements will be minutely controlled to keep them motionless with respect to the satellite.
“If the equivalence principle is verified, these two masses will be subjected to the same control acceleration; if different accelerations have to be applied, the principle will be violated – an event that would shake the foundations of physics,” Arianespace said on its website
The satellite was set to be launched by the Russian Soyuz rocket Friday, but the mission was delayed because of high winds and defective equipment, SpaceNews.com reported
The satellite test of Einstein’s theory will be 100 times more precise than ground-based tests, according to SpaceNews.com. The $147 million mission has taken more than 15 years to produce and is designed to last for two years.
The Soyuz rocket also carried the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-1B, a twin to a satellite launched in 2014 as part of the Copernicus program, The Guardian reported
. The satellite includes radar and imaging technology for land and ocean monitoring.
Three tiny student-built CubeSats also were placed in orbit.
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