|Mission type||Laser ranging satellite|
Tests of general relativity
|Operator||Italian Space Agency (ASI)|
|Launch mass||386.8 kg|
|Dimensions||36.4 cm (diameter)|
|Start of mission|
|Launch date||13 February 2012, 10:00:00 UTC|
|Launch site||Kourou, ELA-1|
|Reference system||Geocentric orbit|
|Regime||Low Earth orbit|
|Perigee altitude||1437 km|
|Apogee altitude||1451 km|
The satellite is made of THA-18N, a tungsten alloy, and houses 92 cube-corner retroreflectors, which are used to track the satellite via laser from stations on Earth. LARES's body has a diameter of about 36.4 centimetres (14.3 in) and a mass of about 387 kilograms (853 lb). LARES was inserted in an orbit with 1,451 kilometres (902 mi) of apogee, an inclination of 69.49°, and reduced eccentricity. The satellite is tracked by the International Laser Ranging Service stations.
The LARES satellite is the densest object known orbiting the earth. The high density helps reduce disturbances from environmental factors such as solar radiation pressure.
The main scientific target of the LARES mission is the measurement of the Lense–Thirring effect with an accuracy of about 1%, according to principal investigator Ignazio Ciufolini and the LARES scientific team, but the reliability of that estimate is contested.
LARES 2 may improve the accuracy of the frame-dragging effect measurement to 0.2%. LARES 2's material is unknown, but it may use a copper alloy instead of a tungsten alloy.