LISA Pathfinder takes a major step closer to launch with its arrival at the Spaceport in French Guiana
The LISA Pathfinder deep-space science payload for Arianespace’s next mission with its Vega launcher has been delivered to South America for an early December liftoff from the Spaceport.
LISA Pathfinder was shipped from Airbus Defence and Space’s Stevenage, U.K. facility for delivery to French Guiana, where it touched down at Cayenne’s Félix Eboué Airport this morning aboard a chartered Antonov An-124 cargo jetliner.
The protective shipping container with LISA Pathfinder is unloaded from an An-124 cargo jetliner at Cayenne’s Félix Eboué Airport following the aircraft’s landing this morning.
After being lofted on December 2 by Vega, LISA Pathfinder initially will be placed in a slightly elliptical parking orbit. The spacecraft subsequently will use its own propulsion module to reach the final operational orbit: a 500,000-km.-by-800,000-km. halo orbit around the first Sun-Earth Lagrange point, 1.5 million km. from Earth.
LISA Pathfinder will help test and validate the technology in space needed for detecting low-frequency gravitational waves – which are ripples in space-time predicted by Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity. The spacecraft also will measure gravitational waves generated by objects such as collapsing binary star systems and massive black holes.
Developed in a European Space Agency program, LISA Pathfinder was produced under the management of prime contractor Airbus Defence and Space in Stevenage. Its liftoff mass will be an estimated 1,900 kg.
Vega is the smallest member of Arianespace’s launcher family, which also includes the medium-lift Soyuz and heavyweight Ariane 5. The light-lift Vega is produced under the responsibility of industrial prime contractor ELV, a company jointly owned by Avio and the Italian Space Agency.
The December 2 mission with LISA Pathfinder will be Vega’s sixth since the launch vehicle’s maiden flight from the Spaceport in 2012.