The LISA (Laser Interferometer Space Antenna) Pathfinder mission, officially started on 3 December 2015 with the launch of the probe from Kourou in French Guyana. The Mission will try to understand how the universe formed and how gravity works, in addition to many other questions on the Universe. LISA Pathfinder was built by the European Space Agency (ESA) with the fundamental contribution of the Italian Space Agency (ASI).
The mission has a very precise and ambitious task: to pave the way to building a space observatory of gravitational waves that should be fully completed by 2034 with the launch of the e-Lisa mission.
The purpose of the probe is to confirm with tests in space the existence of gravitational waves, thereby validating the technology necessary in an environment that cannot be reproduced in any laboratory on Earth. The probe will be positioned at a distance of about 1.5 million kilometres from Earth. It will contain two freely floating masses, shielded from outside forces, which will follow a path determined solely by the local gravitational field. The probe position will be kept centred with respect to the test masses; in other words, the probe and the masses will fly in formation. The movement of the test masses will be measured with an accuracy never before experienced thanks to a laser interferometer with picometer resolution.
Thales Alenia Space
Thales Alenia Space ha fornito ad Airbus Defence and Space, prime contractor del satellite, apparecchiature del segmento di bordo e terrestre. In particolare la società ha realizzato il trasponditore per Telemetria, Traiettografia e Comando (TT&C) in banda X, uno degli elementi chiave della navetta, che agisce come unica interfaccia tra il satellite e la stazione di terra. Il trasponditore riceve i comandi dal segmento terrestre e trasmette le telemetrie del velivolo spaziale, le informazioni degli strumenti e i segnali di allineamento.
L’azienda ha sviluppato, inoltre, l’hardware e il software dell’Apparecchiatura di Verifica Specifica dell’Alimentazione (Power Specific Check-Out Equipment), che simula i pannelli solari e le batterie e si è occupata anche del collaudo dei sottosistemi di alimentazione del veicolo spaziale durante le fasi di montaggio, integrazione e convalida.
Telespazio is engaged in the LISA Pathfinder mission through its Telespazio VEGA Deutschland subsidiary, providing software solutions for the launcher and the ground segment of the mission, and guaranteeing operational services to the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt, Germany.
Telespazio VEGA Deutschland developed the operational training simulator for the ESOC Flight Control Team during LEOP (Launch and Early Orbit Phase), which will be used to perfect routine tasks while in orbit.
Telespazio supports ESOC space operations with a technical team, providing engineering services for information systems and communications. Other teams are engaged in ground station services and flight dynamics control operations.
Airborne & Space Systems Division
Leonardo takes part in the mission also through the Airborne & Space Systems Division, which contributed with its Photovoltaic Assembly, sun sensors and micropropulsion system.
The micropropulsion system will allow the mission to reach the necessary drag-free conditions. Notably, the cold gas micropropulsion system will allow the ESA spacecraft to position itself and control its attitude (orientation) with extreme accuracy while the digital solar sensors, called 'Smart Sun Sensors' were used during the launch and early orbit phase, transfer orbit phase and throughout mission operations in orbit around Lagrange point L1.
In addition, the Division has designed and manufactured the LISA Pathfinder's Photo Voltaic Assembly (PVA) for its solar panel that will provide the spacecraft with 900 W of installed power at 28% average efficiency to power the spacecraft's systems (nearly 50% more than an Earth photovoltaic assembly): a technology entirely developed in Europe.