LISA Pathfinder: launch and journey to L1
Artist's impression of the launch of LISA Pathfinder, ESA's technology demonstration mission that will pave the way for future gravitational-wave observatories in space.
Launched on a Vega rocket from Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana on 3 December 2015, LISA Pathfinder arrived at its operational orbit at the Lagrange point L1, 1.5 million km from Earth towards the Sun, after about six weeks.
The Vega rocket is specially designed to take small payloads into low Earth orbit. The animation shows the rocket shortly after launch, rising above the surface of our planet and releasing the fairing.
Vega placed the spacecraft onto an elliptical orbit with perigee at 200 km, apogee at 1540 km and an inclination of about 6.5°. Then, LISA Pathfinder continued on its own, using its separable propulsion module to perform a series of six manoeuvres, gradually raising the apogee of the initial orbit.
When LISA Pathfinder arrived at its final orbiting location, it discarded the propulsion system. Once in orbit around L1, the spacecraft began its six months of nominal operations devised to demonstrate key technologies for space-based observation of gravitational waves.