Full support for SMART-2 and LISA
1 March 2001Representatives of the European Space Agency's LISA Study team and the European LISA science community met today at the European Space Technology Centre (ESTEC) in The Netherlands to discuss the project's current statusand future plans.
The scientists reiterated their full support for LISA - the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna - and a preliminary technology demonstration mission known as SMART-2 (Small Mission for Advanced Research in Technology).
"It was agreed to have a Study Science Team meeting next May to explain ESA's plans for SMART-2 and LISA to the scientific community," explained LISA Study Manager Alberto Gianolio. "This will also enable us to prepare for an ESA/NASA meeting that will take place shortly after."
ESA's ambitious Cornerstone mission is expected to make the first detection of gravitational waves - ripples in space-time. According to Einstein's Theory of General Relativity, these waves may be generated by exotic objects such as binary black holes which distort space and time as they orbit in close proximity to each other.
LISA is currently envisaged as a joint ESA/NASA mission, with launch in 2011. In order to detect the elusive gravitational waves, the three LISA spacecraft will carry state-of-the-art hardware including inertial sensors, a laser-interferometry telescope system and highly sensitive ion thrusters.
Both LISA and SMART-2 were approved at the meeting of the ESA Science Programme Committee (SPC) in November 2000. The SPC reconfirmed its support for SMART-2 on 26 February 2001, and endorsed the recommendation of the ESA Executive that both the European and American LISA Test Packages should fly on the SMART-2 spacecraft. Launch of SMART-2 is currently envisaged for 2006.