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Tests of Relativistic Gravity in Space: Brief History, Recent Progress and Possible Future Directions

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Einstein’s general theory of relativity is the standard theory of gravity, especially where the modern needs of astronomy, astrophysics, cosmology and fundamental physics are concerned. As such, this theory is used for many practical purposes involving spacecraft navigation, geodesy, time transfer and etc. Series of recent experiments have successfully tested general relativity to a remarkable precision. Various experimental techniques were used to test relativistic gravity in the solar system namely spacecraft Doppler tracking, planetary ranging, lunar laser ranging, dedicated gravity experiments in space and many ground-based efforts. We will discuss the recent progress in the tests of relativistic gravity and motivation for the new generation of high-accuracy gravitational experiments in space. We also discuss the advances in our understanding of fundamental physics that are anticipated in the near future and evaluate the discovery potential of the recently proposed solar system gravitational experiments.