LARES (LAser RElativity Satellite) is a laser-ranged satellite deployed by the Italian Space Agency (ASI). It is a spherical satellite covered with 92 retro-reflectors with a radius of 182 mm. Made of tungsten alloy, its weight is 386.8 kg, making it likely the highest mean density body in the Solar System. LARES was launched on the 13thof February 2012 and detected by radar soon after separation. Within a few days, it was acquired by laser ranging stations from all over the world. The VEGA launcher performed perfectly in its first flight by injecting the satellite in the nominal orbit with high accuracy. The satellite is performing well, and laser returns are being collected and preprocessed by the laser ranging stations for distribution to the community by the International Laser Ranging Service (ILRS). The LARES data will be used for space geodesy, geodynamics and tests of General Relativity. For what concerns the measurement of the frame-dragging effect, predicted by Einstein General Relativity, several years of observations are required to obtain a very accurate measurement of the effect. Ultimately, LARES has been designed for a few percent test of the frame-dragging effect, or gravitomagnetism. We will describe the mission and report the first orbital parameters determination.
Initial orbit determination results for the LARES satellite / I., Ciufolini; PAOLOZZI, Antonio; E., Pavlis; J., Ries; R., Koenig; R., Matzner; V., Gurzadyan; SINDONI, GIAMPIERO; PARIS, Claudio; H., Neumayer. - STAMPA. - 6(2012), pp. 4217-4223. ((Intervento presentato al convegno 63rd International Astronautical Congress 2012 tenutosi a Naples; Italy nel 1-5 October, 2012.