Optical Clock and Drag-Free Requirements for a Shapiro Time-Delay Mission

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Mission Concept

In the next decade or two, extremely accurate tests of general relativity under extreme conditions are expected from gravitational wave observations of binary black hole mergers with a wide range of mass ratios. In addition, major improvements are planned in both strong and weak equivalence principle tests; clock measurements based on the ACES program on the ISS; more accurate light-bending measurements; and other new types of tests. However, whether these tests are all consistent with general relativity or not, it still appears desirable to proceed with a much improved measurement of the Shapiro time delay. A suggested approach is based on using a high-quality optical clock in a drag-free spacecraft near the sun-earth L1 point and a smaller drag-free transponder spacecraft in a two-year period solar orbit. Laser phase travel-time measurements would be made between the two spacecraft over a period of 10 or 20 days around the time when the line of sight passes through the Sun. The requirements on the optical clock stability and on the drag-free systems will be discussed. The accuracy achievable for the time-delay appears to be better than 1 part in 100 million….
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Written by physicsgg

June 14, 2011 at 1:20 pm

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