The journey and final orbit of LISA Pathfinder, ESA’s technology demonstration mission that will pave the way for future gravitational-wave observatories in space.
LISA Pathfinder is scheduled for launch on 2 December 2015 on a Vega rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana. Vega will place the spacecraft into an elliptical orbit, with a perigee (closest approach to Earth) of 200 km, apogee (furthest point) of 1540 km, with the path angled at 6.5º to the equator.
Then, once Vega’s final stage is jettisoned, LISA Pathfinder will continue under its own power, beginning a series of six apogee-raising manoeuvres over the next two weeks.
The last burn will set LISA Pathfinder on its way towards its final orbiting location. The cruise will last about six weeks, and the propulsion module will be discarded along the way four weeks in.
Eventually, the spacecraft will circle the L1 Sun–Earth Lagrangian point. There, LISA Pathfinder will begin its six months of demonstrating key technologies for space-based observation of gravitational waves.