The UK-led spacecraft mission, Lisa Pathfinder, which launched on Friday last week, will help to open up a new observational window into the gravitational Universe, by testing new technologies needed to measure gravitational waves in space.
Predicted by Albert Einstein, these waves are ripples in the curvature of spacetime produced by massive celestial events, such as the merging of black holes.
The UK’s involvement in LISA Pathfinder’s technology demonstration payload and the operational phase of the mission is funded by the UK Space Agency and was formerly funded by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC).
Airbus Defence and Space is the prime contractor for the mission, having built the spacecraft, as well as being the LISA Test Package (LTP) architect, on behalf of ESA and the participating member states.
SciSys UK Ltd developed the satellite’s on-board software and UK scientists from the University of Birmingham, the University of Glasgow and Imperial College London designed and built elements of the innovative and complex LTP.
STFC RAL Space was involved in several technology development projects in the early stages of the mission in 2001.
Dr Chris Castelli, director of programmes at the UK Space Agency, said: “LISA Pathfinder is one of the most unique European space missions to date, requiring engineering that has never been done before. We’re immensely proud that this challenging mission to discover the unseen part of our Universe was built here in the UK."