Gravitational Wave Astronomy in Space: LISA and LISA Pathfinder

The LISA movie shows design and operating mode of the planned space-based gravitational wave observatory LISA (Laser Interferometer Space Antenna).

The LISA Movie

© Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics/Milde Marketing Science Communication

LISA Pathfinder vodcasts

LISA Pathfinder is a demonstration mission designed to test in Space the high-precision technologies required by the Gravitational Wave Observatory LISA (Laser Interferometer Space Antenna). The heart of the satellite is an interferometer measuring the distance between two test masses with picometer precision. The light source of the interferometer is a laser of highest stability.

The laser learns to fly

Recently, a series of tests were carried out to find out if the laser would withstand the strong forces during the rocket launching phase. Engineers of the company Tesat Spacecom together with scientists at the Albert Einstein Institute in Hanover conducted a so-called vibration test on the laser in the laboratories of the company Tesat Spacecom, exposing it to a multiple of gravitational acceleration with differing frequencies.
The Federal Republic of Germany's involvement in this project is funded by the German Aerospace Center (DLR), with funding provided by the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology on the basis of a relevant resolution of the German Federal Parliament (reference 50 OQ 0501).

Gauging the quiet

LISA Pathfinder is a mission to measure perfect rest. However – determining perfect rest is not easy at all when you think about it. Perfect rest compared to what? The best thing to do is to take a second test mass, also perfectly at rest and measure the relative distance between them.
Scientists want to use this method to measure extremely small length changes caused by gravitational waves. LISA, the Laser interferometer Space Antenna will probe these ripples in space-time predicted by Einstein with its three satellites. LISA Pathfinder will test the free-falling, disturbance-free test masses used in this experiment.

Light on the optical bench

The optical bench of the LISA Pathfinder (LPF) mission passed with flying colours extensive testing at the Institute for Gravitational Research (IGR) at the University of Glasgow. IGR scientists assured that the high-precision measurement system is ready to survive tremendous forces up to 35 g (35 times the gravitational acceleration on Earth) during rocket launch.

LISA Pathfinder: from CAD models to ready-to-fly hardware

The LISA Pathfinder space mission reached another important milestone: Its heart, the optical bench, was now further integrated into the core assembly of the satellite. Dr Christian Killow (Scottish Universities Physics Alliance Advanced Fellow) said, “It is rewarding to see CAD models turning into real hardware!”

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