LISA Pathfinder will pave the way for a major ESA/NASA mission planned for the near future: LISA (Laser Interferometer Space Antenna), aimed at detecting gravitational waves generated by very massive objects such as black holes. Detecting gravitational waves will tell us more about the way space and time are interconnected. The mission consists of placing two test-masses in a nearly perfect gravitational free-fall, and of controlling and measuring their motion with unprecedented accuracy. This is achieved through state-of-the-art technology comprising inertial sensors, a laser metrology system, a drag-free control system and an ultra-precise micro-propulsion system.
All these technologies are essential not only for LISA; they also lie at the heart of any future space-based test of Einstein's General Relativity. Originally scheduled for launch at the end of 2009, LISA Pathfinder is expected to launch in 2013 or 2014.
- Demonstrate drag-free and attitude control in spacecraft with two test masses
- Test feasibility of laser interferometry at the level of accuracy envisaged for LISA
- Test endurance of the different instruments and hardware in the space environment
- Validate the new technologies and measurement strategies to ensure the success of LISA