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TAS-ESA: contract signed for Lisa mission

To investigate the history of Universe

Discovering the mystery of black holes and gravitational waves

Thales Alenia Space (TAS), the joint-venture between Thales (67%) and Leonardo (33%), announced yesterday that it has won a contract from the European Space Agency (ESA) for the Phase A study of LISA (Laser Interferometer Space Antenna), the third “large-class” mission in ESA's Cosmic Vision 2015-25 Program.

It will be the first space-based gravitational wave observatory. Its major aim is the detection of gravitational waves, ripples in the fabric of space-time created by large and dense celestial bodies with very strong gravity – such as black holes – that move with accelerated motion, as predicted by Albert Einstein's theory of general relativity. The mission will give scientists a completely new view of the cosmos compared with traditional observation techniques, and will hopefully help unveil some of its many mysteries.

LISA will consist of three spacecraft in a triangular formation, separated by 2.5 million kilometers, following the Earth in its orbit around the Sun. Each satellite will carry two reference masses. Laser beams will be transmitted between satellites to measure the displacement of these masses with a resolution ten times smaller than an atom. TAS will lead the feasibility study phase ending in January 2020. This contract marks a major step forward for the LISA mission and also confirms TAS’s traditional key role in many of Europe’s leading scientific missions.

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