publication 24-October-2017 09:46:45

Charge-Induced Force Noise on Free-Falling Test Masses: Results from LISA Pathfinder

Publication date: 26 April 2017

Authors: Armano, M., et al. (LISA Pathfinder Collaboration)

Journal: Physical Review Letters
Volume: 118
Issue: 17
Page: 171101
Year: 2017

Copyright: American Physical Society

We report on electrostatic measurements made on board the European Space Agency mission LISA Pathfinder. Detailed measurements of the charge-induced electrostatic forces exerted on free-falling test masses (TMs) inside the capacitive gravitational reference sensor are the first made in a relevant environment for a space-based gravitational wave detector. Employing a combination of charge control and electric-field compensation, we show that the level of charge-induced acceleration noise on a single TM can be maintained at a level close to 1.0  fm s-2 Hz-1/2 across the 0.1–100 mHz frequency band that is crucial to an observatory such as the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA). Using dedicated measurements that detect these effects in the differential acceleration between the two test masses, we resolve the stochastic nature of the TM charge buildup due to interplanetary cosmic rays and the TM charge-to-force coupling through stray electric fields in the sensor. All our measurements are in good agreement with predictions based on a relatively simple electrostatic model of the LISA Pathfinder instrument.

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Last Update: 20 June 2017

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