In-flight testing of the injection of the LISA Pathfinder test mass into a geodesic
- Journal Article
LISA Pathfinder is a technology demonstrator space mission, aimed at testing key technologies for detecting gravitational waves in space. The mission is the precursor of LISA, the first space gravitational waves observatory, whose launch is scheduled for 2034. The LISA Pathfinder scientific payload includes two gravitational reference sensors (GRSs), each one containing a test mass (TM), which is the sensing body of the experiment. A mission critical task is to set each TM into a pure geodesic motion, i.e. guaranteeing an extremely low acceleration noise in the sub-Hertz frequency bandwidth. The grabbing positioning and release mechanism (GPRM), responsible for the injection of the TM into a geodesic trajectory, was widely tested on ground, with the limitations imposed by the 1-g environment. The experiments showed that the mechanism, working in its nominal conditions, is capable of releasing the TM into free-fall fulfilling the very strict constraint imposed on the TM residual velocity, in order to allow its capture on behalf of the electrostatic actuation. However, the first in-flight releases produced unexpected residual velocity components, for both the TMs. Moreover, all the residual velocity components were greater than maximum value set by the requirements. The main suspect is that unexpected contacts took place between the TM and the surroundings bodies. As a consequence, ad hoc manual release procedures had to be adopted for the few following injections performed during the nominal mission. These procedures still resulted in non compliant TM states which were captured only after impacts. However, such procedures seem not practicable for LISA, both for the limited repeatability of the system and for the unmanageable time lag of the telemetry/telecommand signals (about 4400 s). For this reason, at the end of the mission, the GPRM was deeply tested in-flight, performing a large number of releases, according to different strategies. The tests were carried out in order to understand the unexpected dynamics and limit its effects on the final injection. Some risk mitigation maneuvers have been tested aimed at minimizing the vibration of the system at the release and improving the alignment between the mechanism and the TM. However, no overall optimal release strategy to be implemented in LISA could be found, because the two GPRMs behaved differently. Show more
Journal / seriesAdvances in Space Research
Pages / Article No.
SubjectLISA Pathfinder; Injection into geodesic motion; Space mechanism in-flight testing; Impulse measurement
Organisational unit08803 - Grab, Christoph (Tit.Prof.)
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