A team of scientists from the University of Glasgow has successfully delivered a significant milestone for LISA Pathfinder - the flight optical bench. This glittering piece of hardware has very demanding requirements; tests have shown that these have been exceeded. Following formal delivery to Astrium GmbH, on 21 June, the optical bench is ready for integration onto the LISA Technology Package (LTP).
LISA Pathfinder is a mission to test the technology required to detect gravitational waves in the range of 0.1 to 100mHz. Due to noise caused by vibrations on the Earth, these gravitational waves can only be detected from space. The effect of the passage of the gravitational waves through the detector is so miniscule, that ultra-sensitive instruments are required to record the signal – requiring that each subsystem of the instrument is also ultra-sensitive. LISA Pathfinder flight optical bench. Credit: University of Glasgow and University of Birmingham The optical bench allows laser interferometry to be used to accurately monitor two free-falling test masses for changes in attitude and the distance between them.