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The effects of patch-potentials on the gravity probe B gyroscopes
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Gravity probe B (GP-B) was designed to measure the geodetic and frame dragging precessions of gyroscopes in the near field of the Earth using a drag-free satellite in a 642 km polar orbit. Four electrostatically suspended cryogenic gyroscopes were designed to measure the precession of the local inertial frame of reference with a disturbance drift of about 0.1 marc sec/yr–0.2 marc sec/yr. A number of unexpected gyro disturbance effects were observed during the mission: spin-speed and polhode damping, misalignment and roll-polhode resonance torques, forces acting on the gyroscopes, and anomalies in the measurement of the gyro potentials. We show that all these effects except possibly polhode damping can be accounted for by electrostatic patch potentials on both the gyro rotors and the gyro housing suspension and ground-plane electrodes. We express the rotor and housing patch potentials as expansions in spherical harmonics Y l,m (θ,ϕ). Our analysis demonstrates that these disturbance effects are approximated by a power spectrum for the coefficients of the spherical harmonics of the form with V 0 ≈ 100 mV and r ≈ 1.7.
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