The demonstration of the mission’s key technologies opens the door to the development of a large space observatory capable of detecting gravitational waves emanating from a wide range of exotic objects in the Universe.

A team of scientists from the University of Glasgow’s Institute for Gravitational Research developed, built, and tested the incredibly sensitive optical bench interferometer that lies at the heart of the LISA Pathfinder. This instrument is capable of detecting tiny changes in distance between two cubes at the heart of the spacecraft which are falling freely through space under the influence of gravity alone.

The IGR also led on the conception, development, construction and installation of sensitive mirror suspensions at the heart of the ground-based LIGO detectors, which were crucial to the first detection of gravitational waves, announced to the world in February.

Dr Harry Ward, Reader in Physics and Astronomy and a member of the Institute for Gravitational Research at the University of Glasgow, described the results as “a spectacular success” which effectively gave the green light to embarking on the next stage – “to fly a spaceborne gravitational wave detector”.

“We want to detect super-massive black hole coalescences when galaxies collide but to do that we had first to prove you can make the super-sensitive measurements – and we have now done exactly that.”


Read the full story: University of Glasgow -“LISA Pathfinder exceeds expectations

European Space Agency

Read the paper in Physical Review Letters