LISA Pathfinder (formerly SMART-2)
Demonstration of drag-free technology for LISA & DARWIN
RAL Space were involved in the development of SMART2, an ESA Mission which has now become the ESA LISA-Pathfinder (link opens in a new window)mission, due for launch in 2011.
The mission will demonstrate the operation of a drag-free spacecraft at the level of 3.10-14ms-2Hz-0.5 at 10-2 to 10-3 Hz. This is within a factor of ten of the drag-free performance that will be required for LISA. A second goal of the mission is to test the basic formation flying capabilities required for the IRSI/DARWIN interferometer.
RAL Space were involved in the following crucial technology developments:
- For the Inertial Sensor which measures the motion of the satellite, RAL developed, with AEAT and SULA, a caging mechanism to enable the proof mass to withstand launch vibrations without damage which would upset the very precise electrostatic sensing. Involved in other aspects of this sensor are Univ. Trento, ICSTM, and Univ.Birm, cordinated by ESA's prime contractor Carlo Gavassi Systems in Milan.
- Design and manufacture of the optical bench for an interferometer to measure the relative motion of the proof masses in two inertial sensors. This will be used to verify the inflight performance of the drag free system. Here ESA's prime contractor is Astrium-D with other subcontractors: Universities of Glasgow and Hannover, and TNO-TPD A neutraliser (electron emitter) for the Field Effect Electric Propulsion Thrusters; funded by ESA.
- A collaboration led by Prof J Stark at QMW to develop electro-thrusters based on an electro-spray technique; funded by EPSRC (link opens in a new window) and STFC (link opens in a new window).
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