For its 14th flight from the Guiana Space Centre, the Soyuz launcher will be orbiting three satellites.
CNES’s Microscope science satellite (MICROSatellite à trainée Compensée pour l’Observation du Principe d’Équivalence) is designed to test for the first time in space the validity of the founding principle of the theory of general relativity developed by Albert Einstein between 1907 and 1915, in which he assumed the equivalence of a gravitational field and a corresponding acceleration of the reference system. The challenge for Microscope will be to achieve a level of precision 100 times better than any experiment yet performed on Earth, thus opening new vistas for theories of gravitation. Microscope will test the principle in the vacuum of space where free fall is a lot less perturbed and lasts a lot longer. It will thus be able to study the relative motion of two test masses on the satellite in permanent free fall over the course of several months.
The Sentinel-1B synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellite will add to the capability already being provided by its twin Sentinel-1A for ESA and the EU’s Copernicus programme. Operating in tandem, the two satellites will cover a full range of requirements in environmental monitoring and security, imaging the entire globe in six days with their powerful radar instruments, providing near-real-time, day-night and all-weather coverage of land surfaces and oceans over Europe, Canada and the polar regions.
Fly Your Satellite! is an outreach programme led by ESA that offers European university students the opportunity to acquire hands-on experience on an ambitious cubesat project. OUTFl-1 from Liege University in Belgium will demonstrate the D-STAR communications protocol; E-st@ar-II from the Polytechnic University of Turin in Italy is a three-axis attitude control system demonstrator using Earth’s magnetic field; and AAUSAT4 from the University of Aaborg in Denmark will demonstrate an automatic vessel identification system and attitude and orbit control system (AOCS).
Watch the launch live at 22:10 on Friday 22 April at https://microscope.cnes.fr/