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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Gravitational mass attraction measurement for drag-free references
by Swank, Aaron J., Ph.D., Stanford University, 2009, 257; 3364514
Abstract (Summary)

Exciting new experiments in gravitational physics are among the proposed future space science missions around the world. Such future space science experiments include gravitational wave observatories, which require extraordinarily precise instruments for gravitational wave detection. In fact, future space-based gravitational wave observatories require the use of a drag free reference sensor, which is several orders of magnitude more precise than any drag free satellite launched to date. With the analysis methods and measurement techniques described in this work, there is one less challenge associated with achieving the high-precision drag-free satellite performance levels required by gravitational wave observatories.

One disturbance critical to the drag-free performance is an acceleration from the mass attraction between the spacecraft and drag-free reference mass. A direct measurement of the gravitational mass attraction force is not easily performed. Historically for drag-free satellite design, the gravitational attraction properties were estimated by using idealized equations between a point mass and objects of regular geometric shape with homogeneous density. Stringent requirements are then placed on the density distribution and fabrication tolerances for the drag-free reference mass and satellite components in order to ensure that the allocated gravitational mass attraction disturbance budget is not exceeded due to the associated uncertainty in geometry and mass properties. Yet, the uncertainty associated with mass properties and geometry generate an unacceptable uncertainty in the mass attraction calculation, which make it difficult to meet the demanding drag-free performance requirements of future gravitational wave observatories. The density homogeneity and geometrical tolerances required to meet the overall drag-free performance can easily force the use of special materials or manufacturing processes, which are impractical or not feasible.

The focus of this research is therefore to develop the necessary equations for the gravitational mass attraction force and gradients between two general distributed bodies. Assuming the drag-free reference mass to be a single point mass object is no longer necessary for the gravitational attraction calculations. Furthermore, the developed equations are coupled with physical measurements in order to eliminate the mass attraction uncertainty associated with mass properties. The mass attraction formula through a second order expansion consists of the measurable quantifies of mass, mass center, and moment of inertia about the mass center. Thus, the gravitational self-attraction force on the drag free reference due to the satellite can be indirectly measured. By incorporating physical measurements into the mass attraction calculation, the uncertainty in the density distribution as well as geometrical variations due to the manufacturing process are included in the analysis.

For indirect gravitational mass attraction measurements, the corresponding properties of mass, mass center, and moment of inertia must be precisely determined for the proof mass and satellite components. This work focuses on the precision measurement of the moment of inertia for the drag-free test mass. Presented here is the design of a new moment of inertia measurement apparatus utilizing a five-wire torsion pendulum design. The torsion pendulum is utilized to measure the moment of inertia tensor for a prospective drag-free test mass geometry. The measurement results presented indicate the prototype five-wire torsion has matched current state of the art precision. With only minimal work to reduce laboratory environmental disturbances, the apparatus has the prospect of exceeding state of the art precision by almost an order of magnitude. In addition, the apparatus is shown to be capable of measuring the mass center offset from the geometric center to a level better than typical measurement devices. Although the pendulum was not originally designed for mass center measurements, preliminary results indicate an apparatus with a similar design may have the potential of achieving state of the art precision.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: DeBra, Daniel B.
School: Stanford University
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-B 70/07, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Aerospace engineering, Mechanical engineering
Keywords: Drag-free satellites, Gravitational mass attraction, Torsion pendulums
Publication Number: 3364514
ISBN: 978-1-109-24307-9
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