LISA Mission

Key Features

LISA's spacecraft in a near-equilateral triangular formation and the "cartwheel" orbits. Credit: NASA

Key features of LISA are interferometric measurement of distances, million-km long baselines, drag free spacecraft based on inertial sensors, and the familiar “cartwheel”-orbits.

LISA uses precision laser interferometry across million km of space to compare separations between test masses that are protected by the spacecraft from non-gravitational disturbances. The distance measuring system is a continuous interferometric laser ranging scheme, similar to systems used for radar-tracking of spacecraft.

One of LISA´s key features is the set of three orbits in a near-equilateral triangular formation, described under the mission concept. The LISA orbits ensure a stable thermal environment, minimising thermal disturbances on the spacecraft and the inertial test masses. Another key technology of LISA are free-falling test masses inside each spacecraft. The test masses will be undisturbed by forces other than gravitation.

A new technology, the so-called “drag-free” operation, allows the spacecraft to follow the test masses, all the while shielding the test masses from spurious forces.


Dr. Benjamin Knispel

Albert Einstein Institute Hannover


Tel.: +49 (511) 762-19104

Fax: +49 (511) 762-2784


Callinstr. 38

30167 Hannover, Germany


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