The Institute for Gravitational Research at Glasgow has been involved in the field of gravitational wave research for over 35 years, with effort being devoted to developments for space-borne gravitational wave detectors for the last 20 years.
With participation in the early ESA studies of competing mission ideas, work focused on aspects of the optical design for the mission that became known as LISA. A program of experimental work was begun at Glasgow and demonstrations of aspects of LISA interferometry undertaken. A major contribution to the overall LISA program was the adaptation of the hydroxyl-catalysis bonding technique (originated at Stanford and transferred to and extended at Glasgow for use in GEO and LIGO) as a method for spaceflight-compatible ultra-stable and strong attachment of optical components to low-CTE substrates.
With the recognition that a technology demonstrator mission was required in advance of LISA, Glasgow played a major role in the definition of the interferometer element of the LISA Pathfinder payload and undertook breadboarding of the candidate design. Glasgow then went on to be funded by the UK Space Agency to build the flight interferometer for LISA Pathfinder. For this activity underpinning research has been undertaken to develop micron precision alignment and manipulation of optical components prior to bonding into final position. Glasgow has also designed and manufactured a highly stable fibre collimator suitable for use in the interferometer aboard LISA Pathfinder and compatible with the requirements of LISA. The flight interferometer for LISA Pathfinder passed its final tests successfully and is ready to fly.
In collaboration with AEI Hannover, Astrium Germany and TNO in the Netherlands the IGR designed a breadboard of a LISA-like interferometer. The goal was to extend the technologies developed for LISA Pathfinder and demonstrate a fully representative interferometer which would be suitable for a LISA-like mission.
With the decision to reformulate the LISA mission into LISA, Glasgow have participated in the industrial study with Astrium Germany and Astrium UK, designing a new interferometer system for the new mission design. This interferometer, still founded on the technology developed for LISA Pathfinder, also builds upon the experience gained during the design phase of the LISA-like interferometer breadboard. The result is an interferometer which can still meet the challenging performance requirements of LISA, but which requires a mechanical envelope which is 50% smaller than previous designs, enabling full compatibility with the new more compact LISA spacecraft design. Work is now underway to prototype the critical subsystems of the LISA OB design..