08 Jun 2007
Antonio García Marín and colleagues from the Albert Einstein Institute and University of Hanover describe the role that laser interferometry will play in the LISA and LISA Pathfinder missions (J. Phys.: Conf. Ser. 66 012052).
The Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) is a joint ESA-NASA mission designed to observe gravitational waves in the frequency range between 10-4 and 1 Hz. Sources in this frequency range include supermassive black holes and galactic binary stars, but studies of these phenomena using ground-based detectors are limited by terrestrial noise.
LISA will consist of three identical spacecraft separated by 5 million kilometers, which together will carry six free-flying proof masses in heliocentric drag-free orbit. Laser interferometry will be used to measure the fluctuations in separation between two test masses located in different satellites with picometer precision.
The aim of the LISA Pathfinder mission is to demonstrate in space the core technologies for LISA. The mission will launch in 2009, five years before LISA, and will consist of two free-floating test masses in a single satellite. The precision of the laser interferometry equipment will be demonstrated as it is used to measure the relative motion of the masses along a common sensitive axis.
The authors present an overview of the development of LISA and LISA Pathfinder with particular emphasis on the interferometry, describing the on-board optical bench and the technological challenges presented by the mission.
This forms the abstract of an article published in Journal of Physics: Conference Series. The full article is available here.