Status Report

The BepiColombo solar conjunction experiments revisited

By SpaceRef Editor
January 14, 2022
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Ivan di Stefano, Paolo Cappuccio, Luciano Iess

BepiColombo ESA/JAXA mission is currently in its 7 year cruise phase towards Mercury. The Mercury orbiter radioscience experiment (MORE), one of the 16 experiments of the mission, will start its scientific investigation during the superior solar conjunction (SSC) in March 2021 with a test of general relativity (GR). Other solar conjunctions will follow during the cruise phase, providing several opportunities to improve the results of the first experiment. MORE radio tracking system allows to establish precise ranging and Doppler measurements almost at all solar elongation angles (up to 7-8 solar radii), thus providing an accurate measurement of the relativistic time delay and frequency shift experienced by a radio signal during an SSC. The final objective of the experiment is to place new limits to the accuracy of the GR as a theory of gravity in the weak-field limit. As in all gravity experiments, non-gravitational accelerations acting on the spacecraft are a major concern. Because of the proximity to the Sun, the spacecraft will undergo severe solar radiation pressure acceleration, and the effect of the random fluctuations of the solar irradiance may become a significant source of spacecraft buffeting. In this paper we address the problem of a realistic estimate of the outcome of the SSC experiments of BepiColombo, by including in the dynamical model the effects of random variations in the solar irradiance. We propose a numerical method to mitigate the impact of the variable solar radiation pressure on the outcome of the experiment. Our simulations show that, with different assumptions on the solar activity and observation coverage, the accuracy attainable in the estimation of γ lays in the range [6,13]⋅10−6.

Subjects: General Relativity and Quantum Cosmology (gr-qc); Instrumentation and Methods for Astrophysics (astro-ph.IM)

Journal reference: December 2020, IOP Publishing, vol. 38, n 5, pp. 055002, Classical and Quantum Gravity

DOI: 10.1088/1361-6382/abd301

Cite as: arXiv:2201.05107 [gr-qc] (or arXiv:2201.05107v1 [gr-qc] for this version)

Submission history

From: Ivan Di Stefano Mr 

[v1] Thu, 13 Jan 2022 17:51:10 UTC (900 KB)

SpaceRef staff editor.