Thales Alenia Space has secured a contract from the European Space Agency (ESA) to carry out the Phase A study of the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) mission.

Part of ESA’s third ‘large-class’ mission of the Cosmic Vision 2015-25 Programme, LISA will be the first space-based gravitational wave observatory.

LISA will be made up of three spacecraft in a triangle, separated by 2.5 million kilometres, following the Earth’s orbit around the Sun.

Each of the satellite will be equipped with two reference masses and will transmit laser beams between them to measure the displacement of these masses with a resolution ten times smaller than an atom.

“Part of ESA’s third ‘large-class’ mission of the Cosmic Vision 2015-25 Programme, LISA will be the first space-based gravitational wave observatory.”

As part of the new contract, Thales will identify a feasible mission design, as well as define a baseline for the spacecraft and its subsystems, including payload interfaces of LISA.

An evaluation of achievable science based on extensive analyses, and the definition of a development road map will also be carried out under the deal.

Thales expects to lead the feasibility study phase by January 2020.

In order to follow its quest of detecting gravitational waves, LISA will use the same technique as two other ESA programmes, Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO)and Virgo.

However, LISA will extend the observation in the lower frequency spectrum, which is inaccessible from the ground, and considerably improve capabilities and verification.

Scheduled to be launched by 2034, the mission is expected to provide scientists a completely new view of the cosmos compared with the traditional observation techniques.