The lift-off today of the European Space Agency’s LISA Pathfinder mission will pave the way for future missions by testing in flight the concept of gravitational wave detection.
It will put two test masses in a near-perfect gravitational free-fall and control and measure their motion with unprecedented accuracy.
LISA Pathfinder will use the latest technology to minimise the extra forces on the test masses, and to take measurements. The inertial sensors, the laser metrology system, the drag-free control system and an ultra-precise micro-propulsion system make this a highly unusual mission. LISA Pathfinder is an ESA mission, which will also carry a NASA payload.
There’s more information on the ESA’s website.
Bill Condie is a science journalist based in Adelaide, Australia.
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