ESA launched trailblazer LISA Pathfinder successfully, the mission being now the first to test breakthrough wave-finding technology.
On December 4th, LISA Pathfinder was successfully launched into space from the French Guiana’s Kourou. The first mission of its kind, Lisa Pathfinder is on the lookout for Albert Einstein’s theorized space-time ripples or gravitational waves. The trailblazer probe is unique both in the scope of the mission and it through its capabilities. However, based on the findings of the ESA’s LISA Pathfinder, a new full-fledged mission is planned for 2034.
ESA launched trailblazer LISA Pathfinder successfully aboard a Vega rocket that took off at 12:04 a.m. EST. Aboard it, the crown jewel of thruster technology Disturbance Reduction System will ensure LISA Pathfinder’s much-needed stability. The thruster technology comes straight from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
For the following two weeks LISA Pathfinder will continue its trip through the orbit. The ultimate goal of the gravitational waves-seeking probe is to reach a perfectly stable point from a gravitational perspective known as L2 and located between the Earth and the Sun.
The trailblazer probe will be testing technologies which could be employed during the next mission in detecting gravitational waves. Albert Einstein theorized in 1915 that an accelerating body moving through space and time will create ripples in spacetime. Known as gravitational waves, the ripples in spacetime are so weak that so far they fully eluded detection. Neither space-bound observations, nor those collected from Earth could indicate the existence of gravitational waves from exploding stars or binary black holes for instance.
Nonetheless, with the launch of ESA’s LISA Pathfinder the scientific community is hopeful that the first building bricks have been laid. For the trailblazer probe to be able to conduct a flawless mission, stability is of utmost importance.
Even solar radiation exerts pressure equal to that of a grain of sand on the surface of earth. For LISA Pathfinder to test gravitational waves detecting technology in appropriate conditions, even this may be too much. NASA-developed Disturbance Reduction System will play a crucial role in keeping the probe stable.
The Disturbance Reduction System is based on colloid micronewton thrusters which should compensate for solar radiation pressure. The colloid micronewton thrusters charge liquid droplets electrically. These are then pushed through an electric field and thus thrust is generated. The precision is astonishing. The colloid micronewton thrusters of the Disturbance Reduction system will control the position of LISA Pathfinder to a millionth of a millimeter.
Photo Credits: Wikimedia
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