LISA will detect signals from different gravitational radiation sources such as the merger of black holes at the centers of galaxies or the capture of smaller objects by black holes, compact binary systems in our galaxy and other sources of cosmological origin, including the relic radiation of the very early Big Bang phase.
These signals will provide information on various unanswered questions: the birth and history of galaxies and massive black holes, the behavior of general relativity and space-time in its extreme limit, the history of the expansion of the Universe, the physics of dense matter and stellar remnants, and possibly a new feature of the early universe physics or string theory.
LISA Pathfinder is the precursor space mission that will test the technology needed to build the first space observatory for gravitational waves, the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA).
The mission consists of placing two test-masses in a nearly perfect gravitational free-fall, and of controlling and measuring their motion with unprecedented accuracy. This is achieved through state-of-the-art technology comprising inertial sensors, a laser metrology system, a drag-free control system and an ultra-precise micro-propulsion system.
The launch of the LISA Pathfinder is planned for Dec 2, 2015. The spacecraft will be launched to an orbit around the first Sun-Earth Lagrange point (L1), at 1.5 million kilometres from Earth. LISA Pathfinder’s lifetime in orbit is scheduled to last one year.
IEEC’s contribution to the mission is the Data and Diagnostics Subsystem (DDS), including the Data Management Unit (DMU), which is the Science Module computer, as well as a system of high precision sensors and commissioning actuators.
The IEEC team is comprised by a group of scientists and engineers, on average 10 people since 2004. A local space industry, NTE-SENER, manufactured the flight components. All of this is in continuous collaboration with the other mission partners (7 European countries) and ESA.
Qualification tests have recently (Nov. 2011) been done in a space simulator (IABG, Munch) which have confirmed technical readiness of the satellite and payload. In particular, IEEC can claim a major success for the excellent performance of the DDS, gaining significant protagonism in the upcoming mission operations.