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INTERNATIONAL, PRIVATE-PUBLIC, MULTI-MISSION PAYLOAD AGREEMENTS FOR NEXT-GENERATION LUNAR LASER RETROREFLECTORS

Author: 
Simone Dell'Agnello
Topic: 
Missions (Including Commercial)
Delivered As: 
Oral
Abstract Text: 

Since 1970s Lunar Laser Ranging (LLR) to the Apollo/Lunokhod Cube Corner Retroreflector (CCR) arrays supplied some of the best tests of General Relativity (GR): possible changes in the gravitational constant, weak and strong equivalence principle, gravitational self-energy (PPN parameter beta), geodetic precession, inverse-square force-law [1]. LLR has also provided significant information on the composition of the deep interior of the Moon [2]. LLR physics analysis also allows for constraints on extensions of GR (like spacetime torsion [3]) and on new gravitational physics that may explain the gravitational universe without Dark Matter/Energy (like Non-Minimally Coupled gravity [4]). LLR is the only Apollo/Lunokhod experiment still in operation. In the 1970s LLR arrays contributed a negligible fraction of the ranging error budget. Since the capabilities of ground stations of the International Laser Ranging Service (in particular APOLLO in USA) improved by more than two orders of magnitude, now, because of the lunar librations, current CCR arrays dominate the error. With the US/Italy project LLRRA21/MoonLIGHT (Lunar Laser Ranging Retroreflector Array for the 21st century/Moon Laser Instrumentation for General relativity High accuracy Tests) UMD and INFN developed a new-generation LLR payload made by a single, large CCR (100 mm diameter), unaffected by the effect of librations, that will improve the LLR accuracy by a factor of ten to one hundred in a few years. The performance of this ‘big CCR’ is being characterized at the SCF_Lab test facility at INFN-Frascati, Italy [5]. INFN also developed INRRI (INstrument for landing-Roving laser Retroreflector Investigations), a microreflector payload for the lunar surface to be laser-ranged by orbiters [6]. This will further extend the physics and lunar science reach of LLR. INRRI can also provide positioning services on the far side. INRRI will be the first retroreflector deployed on the surface Mars by ESA’s ExoMars lander “Schiaparelli” launched on March 14, 2016. LLR data are analized/simulated with the Planetary Ephemeris Program developed by CfA. INFN, UMD and MEI signed a private-public partnership, multi-mission agreement to deploy the big and the microreflectors on the Moon. Through existing MoUs between INFN and the Russian Academy of Sciences, international negotiations are also underway to pro-pose the new lunar reflectors and the SCF_Lab services for the next robotic missions of the Russian space program. The latter includes the LUNA-27 mission, in the framework of the ESA-ROSCOSMOS-IKI partnership.

References:
[1] M. Martini and S. Dell’Agnello, in R. Peron et al. (eds.), Gravity: Where Do We Stand?, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-20224-2_5, Springer Inter-national Publishing, Switzerland (2016).
[2] Williams, J. G., Turyshev, S. G., Boggs, D. H., Ratcliff, J. T., Lunar laser ranging science: Gravitational physics and lunar interior and geodesy, Adv. Space Res. 37(1), 67-71 (2006).
[3] R. March, G. Bellettini, R. Taursaso, S. Dell’Agnello, Phys. Rev D 83, 104008 (2011).
[4] N. Castel-Branco, J. Paramos, R. March and S. Dell’Agnello, in 3rd Euro-pean Lunar Symposium, Frascati, Italy (2014).
[5] S. Dell’Agnello et al, Adv. Space Res. 47, 822–842 (2011).
[6] Dell’Agnello, S., et al, Journal of Applied Mathematics and Physics, 3, 218-227 (2015).

Co-Authors: 
R. Fisackerly
SSERVI Identifier: 
NESF2016-036

About SSERVI
Recognizing that science and human exploration are mutually enabling, NASA created the Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI) to address basic and applied scientific questions fundamental to understanding the Moon, Near Earth Asteroids, the Martian moons Phobos and Deimos, and the near space environments of these target bodies. As a virtual institute, SSERVI funds investigators at a broad range of domestic institutions, bringing them together along with international partners via virtual technology to enable new scientific efforts."