Studies under way for the LISA Pathfinder missionThe studies for the launch of the LISA Pathfinder scientific satellite of ESA, using a Vega launcher from the Verta batch, started at the end of September. The mission is scheduled for a launch window from October 2013 to September 2014.
LISA PATHFINDERThe Science Module was retrofitted with three new side-panels onto which the cold-gas micro-propulsion equipment had been integrated. Functional verification of the spacecraft is progressing as planned, with the completed version of the flight software and using the FM microthrusters driving electronics. LISA Pathfinder carries two sets of six cold-gas thrusters; the first set is in acceptance testing, whereas the second redundant set is being manufactured. Both the micro-Newton thrust force and thesub-micro-Newton thrust force noise have been confirmed in a dedicated facility by Onera (FR). Acceptance testing of the two FM Inertial Sensor Heads (ISH) has been completed. The testing campaign included bi-polar discharge of the test mass by means of ultraviolet light, contacting, photoelectric effect. In orbit, though, the discharge process will be without physical contact between the test mass and its surrounding electrodes. Thus, the ground verification requires novel modelling techniques. The ISH FMs will now be integrated on the LISA Pathfinder Core Assembly (LCA). The LCA includes an optical interferometry ultra-stable bench on its support frame, the two ISH, diagnostics equipment and support equipment. The LCA integration has advanced to the point where the next step is the integration of the ISH.The launch vehicle will be Vega, on one of the VERTA launches. The lessons learnt from the first Vega launches are being closely monitored to confirm the compatibility with the mission and spacecraft. Considering the approaching launch date, activities by the launcher authority, ESAC and ESOC are running at full pace.