June 20, 2024
World-first mission to detect ripples in the fabric of space-time

The European Space Agency (ESA) has approved the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) mission, the first scientific endeavour to detect and study cosmic ripples from space. 

The launch of LISA is planned for 2035, on an Ariane 6 rocket. The project is expected to be the most expensive and complex the agency has ever undertaken. 

Cosmic ripples, also known as gravitational waves, are created during some of the most dramatic events in the Universe, such as when black holes collide. 

By measuring them, LISA will probe the entire history of the Universe, going back long before stars and galaxies formed. It could even offer a direct glimpse into the very first seconds after the Big Bang.

LISA won’t be just one spacecraft but a constellation of three that will travel in a triangular formation. Each spacecraft will be 2.5 million kilometres apart — more than six times the distance between the Earth and the Moon. 

The three spacecraft will beam lasers between each other. Movements in this laser triangle will allow scientists to detect and study gravitational waves.

Gravitational waves are ripples in space-time that alter the distances between objects. LISA will detect them by measuring subtle changes in the distances between free-floating “golden cubes” nestled within its three spacecraft.

an image of the golden cubes that will be placed inside of all three LISA spacecraft