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You are here: Allan's TIME > Newsletter > Archive > December 5, 2000

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Spacecraft Trajectories & Present Gravity Theory Shorcomings

Date: Dec 05 2000 23:51:38 EST
From: "Sterling D. Allan, production editor" <>
Subject: [A-TIME] Spacecraft Trajectories & Present Gravity Theory Shorcomings

Here is a news story relevant to the Unified Field Theory being set forth by
David W. Allan ( ) in which he proposes that energy
density also plays a role in gravitational attraction.  It may be the
missing piece they are looking for.


May the Force Be With You? Mysterious Effect May Influence Spacecraft

By Leonard David
Senior Space Writer
posted: 02:40 pm ET
26 November 2000

WASHINGTON -- Space probes using Earth to slingshot their way outward into
the solar system appear to have received an extra boost by a mysterious
force -- perhaps an unknown component of gravity.

Scientists hope to confirm the unusual effect as the Stardust spacecraft
whips by Earth this coming January.

Analysis by radio scientists of the post-Earth flyby trajectories of three
spacecraft have shown each craft to have picked up an unexpected increase in
speed: The Galileo spacecraft in December 1990; the Near Earth Asteroid
Rendezvous (NEAR) probe in January 1998; and the Saturn-bound Cassini
spacecraft in August 1999.

The Galileo spacecraft slipped by Earth a second time in December 1992. But
the vehicle dipped too close to Earth, making the measurement of any "flyby
effect" unusable.

Doin' the Doppler shift

"This problem has been with us for about 10 years, and we haven't found a
solution," said John Anderson, a senior research scientist and member of the
Stardust science team at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena,

"We're looking forward to the Stardust flyby. That would be our fourth
measurement of this anomalous effect," Anderson told

Using JPL's Deep Space Network of radio telescopes, the velocity of Stardust
is measured by analyzing its Doppler shift -- in this case, a change in
frequency or wavelength due to the relative motion between the emitting
source, Stardust's radio transmitter, and ground receiving equipment.

Stardust is expected to show a bump-up in velocity as it flies by, Anderson
said. "We can't find any source or any mechanism that would do that," he

"Cassini, NEAR, Galileo...they all show it. If it follows the pattern that
we've seen in the other three, it should be clearly measurable," Anderson
said. "That's why we're so anxious to get the Stardust data," he said.

X-band rated

The Stardust spacecraft will zoom past Earth on January 15, 2001, at the end
of its first elongated orbit of the Sun, said Donald Brownlee, Stardust's
principal investigator of the University of Washington, Seattle.

Launched in February 1999, Stardust is on a long-and-winding road to comet
Wild 2. In 2004 the probe will snag cometary material, then return the
samples to Earth in 2006.

Stardust is equipped with an X-band transponder (radio
transmitter/receiver), allowing radio scientists on Earth to precisely track
the spacecraft, Brownlee said.

As Stardust slips by Earth to attain a flight path change, it will pass
4,000 miles (6,437 kilometers) above Africa, Brownlee said. There is a
prediction of where the spacecraft should be, one that takes into account
the flyby effect, he said.

"Those past spacecraft, after the flyby...they are leaving with slightly
more energy than expected. Each one had a consistent anomaly. It's quite
intriguing," Brownlee said.

"It is possible, I guess, it's some new factor that hasn't been taken into
account. But the most interesting possibility is it's a previously
undiscovered component of gravity," Brownlee said.

Head-scratching science

Just what the effect might be remains a puzzle, Anderson said.

"It could be fundamental might not be. I view it as a
mysterious anomaly. To be speculative, it could be revealing something new
in physics," he said.

Anderson said he could not discount that some systematic navigation error,
yet to be identified, has been uncovered.

"Either way, it is important to pin it down, hopefully after we get the
Stardust flyby," Anderson said. Stardust radio data collected during the
January swing-by could be fully analyzed by his four-person team at month's
end, or later in February, he said.

"If the force was with us, basically, this would be a phenomenal discovery,"
Brownlee told

What's the charge?

Anderson said colleagues have ventured guesses as to what might explain the
effect, if it is a true phenomenon in the first place.

One possibility being aired, Anderson said, is that spacecraft become
charged as they whisk through the Earth's magnetic field. This
electromagnetic charge then interacts with the Earth's gravity, creating the
anomalous motion in the spacecraft as it cruises by Earth, he said.

Anderson also said the effect could be some outcome of string theory

String theory is a supposition that space is imbued with weak and strong
nuclear interactions, along with electromagnetic and gravity forces, that
form curled-up dimensions, in addition to the observable dimensions of
length, height and width.

But putting such speculation aside, Anderson said, obtaining matter-of-fact
data in January is important.

"Assuming that we see it again on Stardust...we should be able to start
seeing a pattern to this," Anderson said. "Nobody has suggested that we
shouldn't pursue this. There might be something to this. It's very hard to
question our results. We just don't know what it is," he said.




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