Ten years ago, on mid February 2012, LARES I – “LAser RElativity Satellite” – was released into orbit by the VEGA launcher on its maiden flight.
The Satellite was developed by #OHBItalia under the #ASI – Agenzia Spaziale Italiana – flag.
It is the densest orbiting object in the Solar System, due to its composition based on a special #tungsten alloy. It is a “massive sphere” of 424mm (diameter) and weighing about 300kg, on which 303 retroreflectors are installed, making it a perfect reflecting target for lasers.
For ten years it has been providing a wide range of very interesting data on a fundamental phenomenon predicted by Einstein’s theory of general relativity: the trailing of space-time due to the rotation of a body (the Earth in this case). The forthcoming LARES II (whose launch is scheduled on May 2022 on the VEGA C maiden flight) will deeply investigate such phenomena with improved and unprecedented accuracy.
Alessandro Bursi, Mechanisms BU Manager at OHB Italia, was strongly involved in both LARES Projects. He was in charge of the system development for retaining and releasing LARES I, as soon as the launcher reaches the target orbit. “LARES has been one of the most intense and great work experiences I have ever had,” declared Mr. Bursi now Project Manager for LARES II at OHB Italia. “A key element of the LARES II System is the non-conventional retaining mechanism assembly that keeps the spheric satellite locked during launch (without damaging the perfect spherical shape) and releases it once in orbit. Now the LARES II Satellite is ready to fly with VEGA C, and I am very excited about the launch as ten years ago!”