FEBRUARY 13, 2012: LAUNCH SUCCESSFUL!
LARES, acronym for LAser RElativity Satellite, is a passive, laser ranged satellite.
The main goal of LARES mission is the measurement of the frame dragging effect (also known as Lense-Thirring effect).
LARES was launched on February 13th, 2012, from the European Spaceport of Kourou (French Guyana), with the maiden flight of the new ESA small launcher VEGA.
Principal Investigator of the mission is Prof. Ignazio Ciufolini (Università del Salento - Italy).
LARES, a completely passive satellite, is a sphere made of high density tungsten alloy, covered with 92 cube corner reflectors (CCR) for precise laser-ranging of the satellite from Earth stations.
The satellite body has been manufactured from a single piece of tungsten alloy. All the metal components of the satellite (body, CCR mounting rings and screws) are made of the same alloy.
Diameter: 364 mm
Mass: 386.8 kg
Number of CCRs: 92
Altitude: 1450 km
Inclination: 69.5 degrees
LARES is the densest known object orbiting in the Solar System.