Before an ESA mission reaches the launch pad, it has to go through a number of approval procedures that ensure the mission´s readiness. The future space-based gravitational wave observatory, the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA), has recently passed its Mission Definition Review (MDR) with flying colors.
The MDR´s goal is to review and confirm that
- LISA´s present mission design is feasible and suitable,
- the mission requirements meet LISA´s science requirements,
- the requirements are mature and adequate to the current phase,
- the technology developments are adequate to the current phase, and
- the interfaces between spacecraft, payload, ground segment, and launcher are well defined.
“I am very satisfied that LISA passed the assessment so well. Now we are heading to the next phase. 2018 will be filled with further examinations, investigations and technology development. It’s great to see LISA making so much progress”, says Karsten Danzmann, director at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute), director of the Institute for Gravitational Physics at Leibniz Universität Hannover, and LISA Consortium Lead.
“Fantastic that the report is so positive”, adds Gijs Nelemans, leader of the Dutch LISA consortium. “This brings us another step closer to the mission with which we will be able to study the merging of supermassive black holes in detail.”
LISA is scheduled for launch into space in 2034 as a mission of the European Space Agency (ESA). It is supported by many ESA member states as well as NASA and many scientists are working together across the Atlantic.
LISA will consist of three satellites spanning an equilateral triangle with each side approximately 2.5 million kilometers long. Gravitational waves passing through the constellation change these distances by a fraction of the diameter of an atom. LISA´s key technologies were successfully demonstrated with ESA´s LISA Pathfinder mission, which operated from late 2015 until mid 2017.
LISA will measure low-frequency gravitational waves with oscillation periods ranging from 10 seconds to more than half a day, which cannot be detected with detectors on the Earth. These are emitted by events such as supermassive black holes with millions of times the mass of our Sun merging at the centers of galaxies, the orbital motions of tens of thousands of binary stars in our Galaxy, and possibly exotic sources such as cosmic strings.
The Dutch contribution to LISA is concentrated in the LISA-NL consortium. Besides various scientists from Dutch universities it consists of the research institutes SRON, Nikhef, and TNO as well as the research school NOVA. These Dutch institutes previously contributed to the test mission LISA Pathfinder. Dutch contributions to the hardware for LISA are still being investigated and could include optical systems, electronics for the ‘phase camera’, calibration, and data processing.
Contact LISA Consortium
Dr. Benjamin Knispel
Press Officer AEI Hannover
Tel.: +49 511 7621 9104
Contact Dutch LISA consortium
Prof.Dr. Gijs Nelemans
Leader NL Lisa Consortium
Tel: +31 6 4512 0189
Dr. Paul McNamara
LISA Pathfinder Project Scientist & LISA Study Scientist at ESA
Tel.: +31 71 565 8239
Artist’s impression: ESA