LISA Pathfinder

Gravitational wave detection

LISA Pathfinder is paving the way for future missions by testing in flight the very 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 is using the latest technology to minimise the extra forces on the test masses, and to take measurements.

 


Paving the way for the LISA mission

LISA Pathfinder is a mission of the European Space Agency that was launched on December 3rd, 2015 that has paved the way for the future L3 mission (L-class mission) of ESA devoted to gravitational-wave astronomy from space, with the goal of implementing the science of the white paper The Gravitational Universe. LISA Pathfinder has tested in flight the very concept of gravitational wave detection: it contains two test masses in a near-perfect gravitational free-fall and an optical (laser) metrology system that controls and measures their motion with unprecedented accuracy. LISA Pathfinder is using 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 also carries a NASA payload, an alternative micro-propulsion system.

ICE's participation

The ICE leads the Spanish contribution to the mission through the Gravitational Astronomy – LISA group.  Spain is one of the eight signatories of the Multilateral Agreement (MLA) between ESA and Germany, Italy, United Kingdom, Spain, France, the Netherlands and Switzerland. The Spanish contribution started on 2004, led by Prof. Alberto Lobo, and consists in the Data and Diagnostics Subsystem (DDS), which include the payload control computer, also known as the Data Management Unit (DMU) and a set of high-precision and high-estability sensors and actuators to monitor the environment of the test masses in LISA Pathfinder, the Diagnostic Items (ITs).  

The DMU is the main computer of the LTP (a mission critical component) which interfaces with the On Board Computer (OBC), the LPF master computer which communicates with the ground stations and distributes tasks to the various subsystems of both the satellite and the payload. The DMU also controls the diagnostic subsystem. The DMU contains fully duplicated hardware (redundancy). The Boot (BSW) and Application software (ASW) for the DMU have also been the responsability of the Spanish group.

The DIs consist of: (i.1) Thermal Diagnostics that use 24 precision thermometers and 14 precision heaters. (i.2) Magnetic diagnostics that use 4 sensitive 3-axes magnetometers (fluxgate class) and 2 precision induction coils. (i.3) Charged particle counting and spectroscopy by means of a Radiation Monitor.

The group has contributed also some parts of the LISA Technology Package Data Analysis (LTPDA) tools, a MATLAB tool developed for the analysis of the LISA Pathfinder data.

 

Senior institute members involved

Meet the senior researchers who lead our participation in the LISA Pathfinder mission.

  • Carlos Sopuerta

  • Jordi Isern

  • Miquel Nofrarias


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