POPSCI - November 2, 2012 by Rebecca Boyle
|STE-QUEST Planned Orbit This map shows the ground track of the STE-QUEST satellite's 16-hour orbit. Jorge Paramos and Gerald Hechenblaikner/via arXiv|
Before heading out to far-flung destinations in the solar system, spacecraft often slingshot around the Earth, so the planet’s gravity provides a boost to send them on their way. In several cases in the 1990s and early 2000s, scientists saw an unexplained change in spacecraft velocities after their closest Earth-shaves. They didn't see it in action, in part because the satellites weren't logged into the Deep Space Network when it happened and even when they were, there’s a 10-second delay between data acquisitions. But they knew it did happen because the spacecraft trajectories changed.
Follow me on Twitter. Please subscribe to our news feed. Get regular updates via Email. Contact us for advertising inquiries.