Press Release

Boeing Delta II Helps NASA Test Two Einstein Predictions

By SpaceRef Editor
April 20, 2004
Filed under , ,

Gravity Probe B, a NASA
satellite that will validate two key aspects of Einstein’s
general theory of relativity, was launched today aboard a Boeing
[NYSE: BA] Delta II rocket.

The Delta II lifted off at 9:57:24 a.m. PDT from Space Launch Complex
2W at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

Following a 75-minute flight, the two-stage rocket deployed the
spacecraft to a circular-polar orbit, approximately 400 nautical
miles above the Earth.

“Our Delta team did a great job in preparing and launching
this extraordinary mission,” said Will Trafton, vice president
and general manager, Boeing Expendable Launch Systems. “We’re
proud to continue our support for NASA in their quest to learn more
about our universe, and we’re looking forward to hearing the
results of this important science experiment.”

A Delta II 7920-10 configuration launch vehicle was used for the
mission and features the Boeing Rocketdyne RS-27A main engine, nine
solid rocket boosters and a 10-foot diameter payload fairing.

Gravity Probe B will test two predictions made by Albert Einstein
in 1916 as part of his general theory of relativity.

The two predictions are the Geodetic effect – the amount
by which the Earth warps local space time in which it resides, and
the frame-dragging effect – the amount by which the Earth drags
local space time with it as it rotates.

The spacecraft will send back data on changes in the spin axis
direction of four onboard, ultra-precise gyroscopes in relation to
the spacecraft’s guide star, IM Pegasi, that will enable scientists
to determine if space time is distorted by the Earth’s presence
and rotation.

The mission will be conducted over a 16-month period, and scientists
also hope to learn more about the structure of the universe in terms
of the relationship between space and matter.

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, Stanford University
and Lockheed Martin Space Systems developed the Gravity Probe B spacecraft.

The next mission for the Delta team is the launch of a U.S. Air
Force Global Positioning System satellite, GPS IIR-12, in June aboard
a Delta II rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.

A unit of The Boeing Company, Integrated Defense Systems is one
of the world’s largest space and defense businesses. Headquartered
in St. Louis, Boeing Integrated Defense Systems is a $27 billion
business. It provides systems solutions to its global military, government
and commercial customers. It is a leading provider of intelligence,
surveillance and reconnaissance; the world’s largest military aircraft
manufacturer; the world’s largest satellite manufacturer and a leading
provider of space-based communications; the primary systems integrator
for U.S. missile defense; NASA’s largest contractor; and a global
leader in launch services.

SpaceRef staff editor.