Gravity-sensing satellite reaches destination

25 January 2016
By Tereza Pultarova
Mobile version
Share |
Lisa Pathfinder, designed to detect the ripples of space time predicted by Albert Einstein, has reached its destination

Lisa Pathfinder, designed to detect the ripples of space time predicted by Albert Einstein, has reached its destination [Credit: ESA]

Lisa Pathfinder, the satellite that senses gravitational waves, has reached its destination some 1.5 million km away from Earth ahead of the commencement of a scientific programme designed to prove (or disprove) Einstein’s theory of relativity.

Launched on 3 December 2015, Lisa Pathfinder took six weeks to reach the so-called Lagrangian point 1 (L1) - one of the points between the Earth and the Sun, where the gravitational pull of both bodies is equal, allowing the spacecraft to stay stabilised in its position.

According to an announcement by the European Space Agency, Lisa Pathfinder will soon start testing its technologies designed to detect gravitational anomalies predicted by Albert Einstein.

The spacecraft carries two gold-platinum cubes that are both 46 mm in size and placed 38 cm apart. The cubes are completely isolated from all external forces, barring gravity. As the cubes will be in the state of perfect free fall, scientists on Earth will be able to obtain data on how the expected gravitational differences affect them.

Soon after reaching L1, the satellite ditched its propulsion module, which helped it reach the destination through six precise firings at various altitudes. The final thruster burn took place on 20 January 2016.

“Heat and vibration from the regular, hot thrusters on the propulsion module would cause too much disturbance during the spacecraft’s delicate technology demonstration mission,” said Ian Harrison, Spacecraft Operations Manager at ESA’s ESOC operations centre in Darmstadt, Germany.

“Primary propulsion during the rest of the mission will be provided by cold-gas microthrusters to keep us at L1. We had planned two burns to get us into final orbit at L1, but only one was needed.”

Over the weekend, the engineers have stabilised the satellite and turned it to point towards the Earth to establish a communication link with a ground station in Australia.

Watch Lisa Pathfinder's journey to L1:

Latest Issue

E&T cover image 1607

"As the dust settles after the referendum result, we consider what happens next. We also look forward to an international summer of sport."

E&T jobs

  • Protection and Control Engineer

    • Glasgow, Perth, Inverness or Aberdeen
    • £36,000 - £54,000 Plus Car and Bonus

    To ensure that the network continues to run effectively, we are looking to recruit a Protection and Control Engineer to join our existing teams....

    • Recruiter: SSE

    Apply for this job

  • Control Systems Engineer

    United Utilities
    • Lancaster, Lancashire
    • Up to £33415 + Comprehensive Benefits

    Provide ICA maintenance and engineering support to the Water & Wastewater Production

    • Recruiter: United Utilities

    Apply for this job

  • Principal Systems Engineer

    BAE Systems
    • England, Surrey, Frimley / Dorset, England, Weymouth
    • Competitive package

    Would you like to be involved in designing, developing, and delivering cutting edge combat systems for the world's most advanced military submarines? BAE Systems is recruiting Principal Systems Engineers

    • Recruiter: BAE Systems

    Apply for this job

  • Gas Terminal Engineer

    National Grid
    • Aberdeenshire, Scotland
    • £41000 - £49000 per year

    Gas Terminal Engineer (Oil/Gas/Petrochemical)- St. Fergus, Scotland - National GridSalary: £41-49k depending on experience, plus excellent benefits including: Performance Bonus, a generous pension scheme, flexible benefits, company car We currently have a

    • Recruiter: National Grid

    Apply for this job

  • Associate Network Opportunities

    Premium job

    Smarter Grid Solutions
    • Flexible but may need to spend time in Glasgow, London or New York offices

    We are always keen to work with relevant industry professionals on an associate basis.

    • Recruiter: Smarter Grid Solutions

    Apply for this job

  • Electronics & Control Systems Engineer

    Frazer-Nash Consultancy Ltd
    • Bristol, Burton, Glasgow, Plymouth, Warrington
    • £ Competitive + Benefits

    We are seeking talented Electronics Engineers at all career levels.

    • Recruiter: Frazer-Nash Consultancy Ltd

    Apply for this job

  • Control and Instrumentation Engineers

    Frazer-Nash Consultancy Ltd
    • Bristol, Burton, Glasgow, Gloucester
    • £ Competitive + Benefits

    Frazer-Nash is currently embarking on a period of significant growth of our electrical, electronics, control and instrumentation capability.

    • Recruiter: Frazer-Nash Consultancy Ltd

    Apply for this job

  • Engineering Officer

    Royal Air Force
    • Nationwide
    • £30k pay after initial training + £10k Golden Hello

    Responsible for the optimum performance of all RAF technology, and specialise in either Aerosystems or Communications Electronics.

    • Recruiter: Royal Air Force

    Apply for this job

  • Junior Automation Engineer

    • Worthing, West Sussex

    Your job will directly contribute to the lives of patients receiving our products

    • Recruiter: GSK

    Apply for this job

  • E & I Craftspersons

    • South East England

    An opportunity has arisen to recruit a number of experienced Electrical and Instrumentation Craftsperson’s....

    • Recruiter: SGN

    Apply for this job

More jobs ▶


Choose the way you would like to access the latest news and developments in your field.

Subscribe to E&T