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LISA mission passes successfully the Mission Definition Review

25 Jan 2018

The Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) will be the first space-based gravitational wave observatory scheduled for launch into space in 2034 as a mission the European Space Agency (ESA). 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. With LISA’s key technologies, which were developed in the last decade, the observation of these minute changes becomes reality and it will open new ways to learn about supermassive black holes, the formation of structure and galaxies, the early universe, and the structure and nature of spacetime itself. The mission is currently in the first planning stages and has recently successfully passed its Mission Definition Review (MDR), a review which evaluates the missions’s feasibility, sustainability and maturity with respect to the current phase.

“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 Prof. Dr. 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.

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 opto-mechanical systems, thermal vacuum tests for telescope assembly, electronics for the 'phase camera', calibration, and data processing.

TNO’s contribution to LISA

TNO has been working on the technology development for LISA for the last 20 years, in which the focus of the research has been on the pointing of the laser links used to measure the distances between the three satellites. As the space craft are in a complex orbit around the Sun and the constellation is subject to constant movement, the links are continuously repointed.  Steering of these laser beams is achieved using rotating mirrors on ultra-stable steering mechanisms. Our heritage in the development of space mechanisms is recognized worldwide and a potential contribution to the LISA mission. In addition, TNO’s 50 years of expertise in designing space instruments and our test capabilities and facilities are added-value to the mission.

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