03/12/2015 3:33 am
ESA–Stephane Corvaja, 2015
Vega VV06, after the mobile gantry withdrawal, is all set for the launch of LISA Pathfinder, ESA's technology demonstrator that will pave the way for detecting gravitational waves from space.
Liftoff is planned at 04:04 GMT (05:04 CET) on 3 December.
Vega will place LISA Pathfinder into an elliptical orbit around our planet. Then, the spacecraft will use its own propulsion module to raise the highest point of the orbit in six stages. The last burn will propel the spacecraft towards its operational orbit, around a stable point called L1, some 1.5 million km from Earth towards the Sun.
Once on its final orbit, LISA Pathfinder will test key technologies for space-based observation of gravitational waves. These ripples in the fabric of spacetime are predicted by Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity but have not yet been directly detected.
To demonstrate the fundamental approach that could be used by future missions to observe these elusive cosmic fluctuations, LISA Pathfinder will realise the best free-fall ever achieved in space. It will do so by reducing all the non-gravitational forces acting on two cubes and monitoring their motion and attitude to unprecedented accuracy.
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