World’s first ever Gravitational Wave Space Observatory

World’s first ever Gravitational Wave Space Observatory
The space observatory, planned for launch in the 2030s, will allow scientists to study the gravitational waves, improving our knowledge of the beginning, evolution, and structure of the Universe.

Scientists in Scotland will work on the world’s first ever Gravitational Wave Space Observatory, which will study ripples in space and time, thanks to an initial £1.7m (~€1.9m) of funding from the UK Space Agency.

The UK, through the work of the University of Glasgow’s Institute for Gravitational Research and the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s UK Astronomy Technology Centre (UK ATC) in Edinburgh, will work on the world’s first Gravitational Wave Space Observatory and develop the optical benches for the European Space Agency’s LISA mission (Laser Interferometer Space Antenna).

These optical benches are at the core of the laser interferometry measurement system, the key technology needed to detect gravitational waves.

The Gravitational Wave Space Observatory

The space observatory, planned for launch in the 2030s, will allow scientists to study these mysterious waves, improving our knowledge of the beginning, evolution, and structure of the Universe.

It will build on the success of the LISA Pathfinder mission, which in 2016 successfully demonstrated the technology needed for LISA. It will also build on work already taking place here on Earth where UK researchers, including those from STFC and the University of Glasgow, are contributing to the ongoing LIGO project that made the first detection of gravitational waves in 2015.

Chris Lee, Head of Space Science at the UK Space Agency, said: “The University of Glasgow has a worldwide reputation for gravitational waves research, with the pioneering work of Professor Ron Drever in the 1960s leading to the Nobel Prize-winning detection of the waves in 2015. This new funding ensures this legacy continues with the LISA mission, alongside crucial technology innovation from the UK ATC in Edinburgh. Scotland is yet again at the heart of UK space activity.”

Gravitational waves can be studied from space, away from ground-based ‘noise’ and measured over vast distances. LISA will be able to observe new sources invisible to the ground based gravitational wave observatories like LIGO.

The first optical bench is due to be delivered to ESA around 2030.

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