Full marks for LISA Pathfinder in final exam

Date: 
Hannover, 23. September 2010

The test mission for the gravitational wave detector in space LISA has reached an important milestone after a rigorous review of the whole mission

Top: A Lisa spacecraft is illuminated by the Laser of another Lisa Spacecraft Bottom: The optical Bench on a Lisa Spacecraft Image credits: Max Plank Institute for Gravitational Wave Research (Albert Einstein Institute), Milde Marketing Science Communication and Exozet Effects GmbH

Gravitational waves tell of star explosions, the collision of black holes and even the Big Bang itself. The space-based gravitational wave detector LISA (Laser Interferometer Space Antenna) will observe the gravitational waves from coalescing binary black holes among other sources, beginning its search for the elusive signals in 2020. Working in conjunction with other astronomical methods and gravitational wave observatories on Earth, we will then be able to observe the unknown and uncharted – the so-called "Dark Side of the Universe". LISA Pathfinder will test the technology for observing gravitational waves in space from late 2012 onward, and was now stringently examined itself, including: - the highly sensitive laser interferometric system - the concept of free floating test masses - the data transmission software - the control systems, data analysis procedures as well as - the rocket, ground segment, satellite guidance and mission logistics "LISA Pathfinder is unique – the spacecraft is a scientific and technological tour de force. Once launched, we can't recall it for repairs or to improve on something. So we have to make certain that all components will survive the conditions of launch and space flight intact and that they will all work and interact as planned", explains Prof. Dr. Karsten Danzmann, director at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute) and head of the Institute for Gravitational Physics of the Leibniz Universität Hannover. "So we have been reviewing the whole mission in all stages of development right from the start, together with ESA and independent referees." "We know what each individual component is supposed to be doing and we compare the projected numbers with the actual test performance. This final review did not spring any surprises on us and we are very pleased with the result", continues Karsten Danzmann who is also one of the two Principal Investigators for LISA Pathfinder and the speaker for Europe for the large LISA mission to follow. These reviews determine the continuation or cancellation of certain lines of development or even of the complete mission. The review process In a veritable review marathon, every single aspect of the mission is examined again and again, subjected to stern scrutiny during each stage of development before it is cleared for launch at the very end. A milestone in this review process is the so-called "Critical Design Review": a final examination and evaluation of mission concept and implementation which was now completed by ESA experts. The partners The LISA Pathfinder mission payload is the LISA Technology Package (LTP). This was developed and built in close collaboration of scientists and industrial partners. The Albert Einstein Institute in Hannover has led the scientific development effort for LTP under Prof. Dr. Karsten Danzmann, also leading the science mission design for LISA Pathfinder together with the University of Trento. The Albert Einstein Institute has received funds for industrial contracts from the Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt DLR (German Aerospace Center). Additional information, images and video material: Dr. Jens Reiche, Project Manager, phone: +49 511 - 7625844 jens.reiche@aei.mpg.de Dr. Felicitas Mokler, Press Officer AEI Hannover, phone: +49 511 - 762 17098, felicitas.mokler@aei.mpg.de Susanne Milde, Milde Marketing Science Communication, phone: +49 331 – 583 93 55, milde@mildemarketing.de Links: http://www.lisa.aei-hannover.de/ http://www.lisa.aei-hannover.de/?page=lisapath&sub=lisapath&lang=en http://sci.esa.int/science-e/www/area/index.cfm?fareaid=40 http://sci.esa.int/science-e/www/area/index.cfm?fareaid=27 http://lisa.nasa.gov/ http://www.aei.mpg.de/hannover-de/66-contemporaryIssues/home/index.html www.aei.mpg.de www.einstein-online.info