LARES (via ESA & Stephane Covaja)
The Laser Relativity Satellite (LARES) was launched into orbit on February 13th to challenge Einstein's theory of relativity. The satellite is made from tungsten and measures only 36 centimeters wide. In addition, it was constructed with many reflectors on its surface used to measure its position from Earth using lasers on the ground.
Past satellites were placed into space to challenge the exact same theory with varying results. One, Gravity Probe B Satellite (2004 - costing $750 million), brought in results within 19 percent while measuring the geodetic effect. This processes measures distortions in the fabric of space-time due to Earth's gravity field. Scientists state that LARES should be able to produce precise measurements within one percent.
With such precise measurements, scientists and researchers will be able to put several theories to the test including gravitational laws, general relativity, and mainly the Lense-Thirring effect. The Lense-Thirring effect is derived from general relativity and describes how the rotation of nearby objects affects the rotation of other nearby objects. If the precision lasers pick up a disturbance in the orbit of LARES, it will verify relativity among other theories.
The satellite was launched by Vega, a small rocket used to economically launch lower mass satellites into orbit around Earth. The launching station is based in Kourou, French Guiana. The launch also has a secondary goal, to make Kaurou a ESA, and other space agencies, launch hot-spot. With NASA out of the shuttle business, Kourou is sure to be busy.