A special space mission of The European Space Agency prepares measurement of gravitational waves


“We want to see whether we can create an environment in orbit that’s free of interference, and where we can conduct these high-precision measurements,” said Michael Menking, senior vice president for Earth observation, navigation and science at Airbus Defense and Space. The company is the main technology contractor on the LISA Pathfinder mission. By mid-January, the launched  probe will have reached an orbit about 1.5 million kilometers (930,000 miles) from Earth, where the pull from the planet’s gravity is balanced by that of the sun. The supposed movement of the gold and platinum cubes expected to be influenced by gravitational waves described by Albert Einstein will be detected using a sensitive laser capable of detecting movements of less than 10 millionths of a millionth of a meter. However, this is only a test and not real measurements will be performed yet. “It’s probably the most challenging mission we’re doing in the science program, because the precision by which you need to measure the test mass position is very, very high,” said Arvind Parmar, head of the European Space Agency’s scientific support office.


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