LISA and LISA Pathfinder
The Glasgow team are actively involved in the international efforts to fly a spaceborne gravitational wave observatory. The current baseline mission is called eLISA. Such a mission will provide detailed observations of gravitational wave sources in the richly populated low frequency band, where sources include inspiraling massive black holes, extreme mass ratio inspirals and binary systems in our own galaxy. eLISA will complement the observations expected from ground-based gravitational wave detectors that will give information about higher-frequency gravitational wave sources.
The technological requirements for spaceborne gravitational wave detectors are many and varied, and at Glasgow we specialise in the optical sensing aspects. The challenges for a spaceborne detector were significant enough to warrant flying a technology demonstrator: LISA Pathfinder. This mission, launched in December 2015, is demonstrating crucial aspects for spaceborne gravitational wave detector missions, and also technologies that could find uses in other areas on the ground and in space.
Supported by UKSA and ESA funding, the group in Glasgow have built and tested the flight hardware optical bench for LISA Pathfinder, and is now utilising this experience to develop and prototype aspects of the optical metrology for eLISA. This has involved developing the hydroxide catalysis bonding process originally created at Stanford University - and subsequently used within GEO and Advanced LIGO - to build ultra-precise optical sensing assemblies suitable for space flight.