LISA Pathfinder's journey to L1
Artist's impression of the journey in space and final orbit of LISA Pathfinder, ESA's technology demonstration mission that will pave the way for future gravitational-wave observatories in space.
LISA Pathfinder launched on 3 December 2015 on board a Vega rocket from Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana. Vega, which is specially designed to take small payloads into low Earth orbit, placed the spacecraft onto an elliptical orbit, with a perigee (closest approach) of 200 km, apogee (furthest approach) of 1540 km, and inclination of about 6.5 degrees.
After the final stage of the Vega rocket was jettisoned, LISA Pathfinder continued under its own power, beginning a series of six apogee-raising manoeuvres powered by its own propulsion system. These manoeuvres were completed two weeks after launch.
The last of these manoeuvres set LISA Pathfinder on its way towards its final orbiting location. The cruise lasted about six weeks, and the propulsion system was then discarded.
Eventually, the spacecraft will be on a large Lissajous orbit around the L1 Sun-Earth Lagrangian point. There, LISA Pathfinder will begin its six months of nominal operations devised to demonstrate key technologies for space-based observation of gravitational waves.