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Published June 7, 2016 | Published
Journal Article Open

Paving the Way to Space-Based Gravitational-Wave Detectors

Reitze, David


The announcement in February 2016 that the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) had detected gravitational waves from the merger of two black holes stunned and electrified much of the physics and astronomy communities [1]. However, while all eyes were turned toward LIGO, the LISA Pathfinder (LPF)—a technology demonstration mission for the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) gravitational-wave detector [2]—was quietly but convincingly paving the way toward the next revolution in gravitational-wave astronomy more than 1.5 million kilometers away from Earth. After a six-month program that began with the launch of the spacecraft in early December 2015, the team behind LPF has now announced the first results from the mission [3]. Following a 50-day journey to Lagrange Point 1 of the Sun-Earth system, LPF settled into orbit to begin a series of spacecraft acceptance tests and an observing campaign to measure the limits with which two test masses can achieve free fall.

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© 2016 American Physical Society.

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