Representatives of ESA and NASA discuss cooperation on LISA
24 January 2001Leading representatives of the ESA and NASA space science communities congregated this week at the European Space Technology Centre (ESTEC) in The Netherlands to discuss cooperation on LISA - the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna.
Under the co-chairmanship of John Credland (Head of ESA's Science Project Department) and John Campbell (Director of Flight Programmes and Projects, Goddard Spaceflight Centre), the teams examined how the two agencies could best operate as a partnership to implement the LISA mission.
One of the most exciting and difficult space missions ever attempted, LISA will make the first detection of gravitational waves - ripples in space-time. In order to realise such an ambition, a great deal of preparatory work will be required before the project can move into the development phase. Preliminary studies on both sides of the Atlantic have already identified the main mission requirements and the nature of the advanced space architecture required.
At this week's meeting, the agencies shared their current state of progress in technology development before going on to discuss possible contributions to the mission and ways in which they might co-operate.
"Researchers from Europe and America have already started to work in close co-operation," commented LISA Study Manager Alberto Gianolio. "A Science Advisory Group has been established in Europe and another is in the process of being set up in the U.S. The next step will be a meeting of the two science communities, which is currently foreseen for this coming June."
Both ESA and NASA are currently developing LISA Test Packages which include such advanced hardware as inertial sensors, a laser-interferometry system and ion thrusters. As presently envisaged, ESA will contribute the three spacecraft, complete with communications hardware, drag-free sensors, algorithms and a highly sensitive electric propulsion system. Much of this state-of-the-art technology will be tested on the SMART-2 mission in 2006.