ESA approves gravitational-wave hunting spacecraft for 2034

Jun 21, 2017

By Leah Crane

LISA is a go. After decades of development and delays, the European Space Agency has given the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna mission, designed to study gravitational waves in space, the official green light. The triplet spacecraft are now slated for launch in 2034.

“I think there’s a mixture of super-excitement and ‘at last’,” says Mark McCaughrean, ESA’s senior advisor for science & exploration. “We’re finally over the starting line – it’s great.”

LISA will be made up of three identical satellites orbiting the sun in a triangle formation, each 2.5 million kilometres from the next. The sides of the triangle will be powerful lasers bounced to and fro between the spacecraft.

As large objects like black holes move through space they cause gravitational waves, ripples which stretch and squeeze space-time. The LISA satellites will detect how these waves warp space via tiny changes in the distance the laser beams travel.

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