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ASI - Agenzia Spaziale Italiana - Mission and Projects ASI - Agenzia Spaziale Italiana - Mission and Projects


Preparing to detect gravitational waves

Main Theme Technology
Mission Responsibility ESA
Launch Date 2015 
End of Mission 
Current phase C/D


LISA-Pathfinder (LISA-PF) is a European project in the framework of ESA-NASA collaboration for the development of the cornerstone mission LISA (Laser Interferometer Space Antenna), the first space observatory for low-frequency gravitational waves that could fly in 2018. As the precursor and second mission of ESA's SMART (Small Missions for Advanced Research in Technology) programme, it will have to develop the necessary technologies for LISA's ambitious objectives. The launch is planned for March 2010.

Two proof-masses and an interferometer system, with the associated electronics and optics, will travel aboard the satellite. These will make up the LISA Technology Package (LTP) and will be developed by a consortium of European research agencies.

LISA-PF will also contain the Disturbance Reduction System (DRS), an instrument that has the same objectives of the LTP, but is being made in the United States with different technology.


Scientific Objectives
The objective of LISA-PF is to put the concept of detecting space gravitational waves to the test,thereby demonstrating that it is possible to control and measure the motion of two masses in free-fall condition with extreme precision.


Italian Contribution
Italy has been responsible for ESA in the definition of the overall architecture of the LTP. Presently it has the role of Principal Investigator (PI) and is developing the inertial sensor, according to a multilateral agreement with ESA signed by ASI. At the national level, ASI is managing the project through an agreement with the Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare (National Institute of Nuclear Physics), the institution of the PI.


International Agreements
The LISA-PF mission falls within the framework of ESA's Science Programme to which Italy contributes about 13%. A Multilateral Agreement among all the Member States that participate in the project was signed in May 2005.