NASA Selects Six US Scientists to Serve on LISA Science Team


NASA’s Astrophysics Division has selected six US scientists to serve on the joint ESA-NASA LISA Science Team, which will provide overall scientific stewardship for the mission. Details on the selections can be found on the Physics of the Cosmos Website.

NASA offering travel grants for the 2024 LISA Symposium


NASA is pleased to offer travel grants to support participation from US-based researchers in the 2024 LISA Symposium, being held in Dublin, Ireland this July. Students, early-career researchers, and those from underrepresented groups are especially encouraged to apply. More information here

NASA Seeks Applications for LISA Science Team


NASA is seeking applicants for positions on the LISA Science Team, a community body which will support the ESA and NASA project teams through the development and opertions of the LISA mission. Applications are due April 16th. Details can be found on the Physics of the Cosmos webpage [link].

ESA Adopts LISA as a Project


The Science Program Committee of the European Space Agency (ESA) has formally Adopted LISA as a flight project. ( ESA announcement) This major milestone clears the way for LISA to proceed into the implementation phase as a partnership between ESA and NASA. (NASA Announcement)

2024 LISA Symposium Announced


The 15th international LISA Symposium will take place in Dublin, Ireland, from July 8th-12th, 2024. Conference details and registration information will be available shortly at the conference website.

LISA Preparatory Science Awards Announced


The selections for the latest round of LISA Prepatatory Science awards have been announced. Eight teams from around the US will use these awards to further our understanding of LISA’s science potential and develop tools for use with future LISA data. See LISA Preparatory Science page for more details.

Pulsar Timing Arrays detect Gravitational Wave Background


After more than a decade of observations, a group of pulsar timing array collaborations simultaneously announced evidence for a background of gravitational waves in the nanohertz band. The North American Nanohertz Observatory for Gravitational Waves (NANOGrav), the European Pulsar Timing Array (EPTA), the Parkes Pulsar Timing Array (PPTA), and Chinese Pulsar Timing Array (CPTA) published their analysis in a series of peer-reviewed papers. The likely source of this background is the inspiral and merger of many supermassive black hole binaries.

Ground-based Gravitational Wave Observatories Begin Observing Run


The international network of ground-based gravitational wave detectors has begun its fourth observing run after a series of upgrades to enhance sensitivity.

LISA Science Featured on Curious Universe


Gravitational Waves and LISA are featured in the latest episode of NASA’s Curious Universe podcast. This entry-level program explains the science behind our mission.

LISA Symposium Program Now Available


The scientific program for the 14th international LISA Symposium is now available online. The all-virtual symposium will feature plenary and contributed talks across the full spectrum of LISA and LISA-related science including mission updates, instrumentation, data analysis, astrophysics, cosmology, and fundamental physics. Registration is free.

New LPS Call Announced


The LISA Preparatory Science Program (LPS) is accepting proposals as part of ROSES-22. A Mandatory NOI is due December 16th, 2022, with proposals due March 16th, 2023. For more information see the LPS Page and NSPIRES.

European Space Agency advances LISA to Phase B1


Following a successful Mission Formulation Review in Fall 2021, the European Space Agency has advanced LISA to Phase B1. During this phase, the detailed mission design and final technology demonstrations will be completed. The next major milestone is Mission Adoption, currently planned for 2024.

Registration Open for the 14th International LISA Symposium


Registration is now open for the 14th International LISA Symposium, which will take place July 25–29 2022. This Symposium is the main biennial gathering for the worldwide LISA community and it promises to be an excellent meeting.

LISA Symposium 14 is being hosted by the University of Glasgow and the UK Astronomy Technology Centre, Edinburgh. The meeting is fully online and there is no registration fee. Participation is welcomed from LISA enthusiasts across the globe and at all career stages. Note that abstract submission will open on April 1st 2022.

For more information, and links to the registration page, see

Astrophysics Decadal Survey recognizes LISA


The U.S. National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine recently released Pathways to Discovery in Astronomy and Astrophysics for the 2020s. In the report, NASA’s participation in the ESA-led LISA mission was recognized as part of the NASA Astrophysics Division’s Program of Record: “NASA should work with the European Space Agency to ensure the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) achieves the full scientific capability envisioned by New Worlds, New Horizons.” [Section 7.7.3]

NASA Provides Laser for LISA Mission


The first prototype laser for the LISA mission, developed at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in coordination with industry partners, has been delivered to ESA for stability testing. Read More

NASA Announces New Selections for LISA Preparatory Science Program


Selections for the second set of LISA Preparatory Science (LPS) awards have been announced! The LPS program supports US-based researchers to conduct research activities related to LISA, and is added to the initial cohort of programs selected in 2018. A summary of all the approved programs is available on NSPIRES, and the full list of LPS selection can be found on our Community: LPS page.

Contract for LISA Charge Management Device Awarded


The award for development of a Charge Management system for ESA's LISA mission has been awarded by NASA to the University of Florida, Gainesville. The system is one of several key enabling technologies that NASA is contributing to the LISA mission.

More information about the award is available here.

New LIGO/VIRGO Catalog Released


The LIGO/VIRGO Collaboration have released a new catalog of gravitational wave detections, combining events detected in O1, O2, and the first six months of the O3 runs. Improvements to the instruments have resulted in a signifcant increase in the rate of detections in O3, producing a more complete portrait of the mass distribution of merger events in this catalog.

More information about the updated catalog can be found here.

LISA Announces Second Data Challenge!


The LISA Consortium has released the first portion of the Second LISA Data Challenge (LDC-2a), codenamed "Sangria," that consists of both a training data set as well as a blinad data challenge. Analyses for LDC-2a build on lessons taught in the First Data Challenge, and the LISA Consortium recommends completing several portions of that challenge before starting on the second data set.

For those who complete the challenge, your results may be submitted to the LISA Data Challenge working group for evalution. The deadline for submission is October 1, 2021.

We hope you enjoyed the 2020 LISA Symposium!


The LISA Symposium last week was the most highly attended to date! We thank the organizers for their hard work and all the speakers for their contributions. Talks from the conference continue to be available on the meeting website for a limited time. A playlist of pre-recorded presentations is currently available on YouTube.

We hope you enjoyed the meeting and we look forward to joining you in two years for the next LISA Symposium!

2020 LISA Symposium
Agenda Now Available


The agenda for the LISA XIII Symposium including the list of speakers, has been posted on the conference website (Link). A playlist of the pre-recorded presentations is now available on YouTube, for participants to view in advance of the live sessions.

2020 LISA Symposium
Abstract Submission Deadline Extended


The deadline for abstract submissions for the LISA XIII Symposium has been extended to 20 July at 12:00 UTC. The abstract submission portal will remain open after that time, but will close permanently on 10 August at 12:00 UTC. However, any abstracts received between 20 July and 10 August will only be eligible for a pre-recorded contributed presentation.

2020 LISA Symposium Registration and Abstract Submission


Registration and abstract submission for contributed talks for the 13th International LISA Symposium are now open. This virtual meeting will be held September 1-3, 2020 and will be open to all and free of charge. The symposium will consist of invited live talks, contributed live talks, and live discussion sessions, with many additional invited and contributed talks prerecorded.

The deadline for abstract submission is 17 July, 23:59 UTC.

2020 LISA Symposium rescheduled as virtual meeting


The 13th International LISA Symposium will take place everywhere online on three afternoons (UTC), on September 1-3, 2020. The symposium will focus on the status of the LISA mission; on the latest developments in its design and technology; on the science (astronomy, astrophysics, cosmology, and fundamental physics) of LISA’s millihertz gravitational-wave sources; and on the ensuing challenges in gravitational theory and analysis.

The live program of invited and contributed presentations, panels, and townhalls will be supplemented by prerecorded talks and tutorials, which will be available on the conference website in advance of the symposium. A call for contributed presentations will go out in early June, with a deadline in mid-July; and the final program should be circulated by early August. More information will appear soon at the LISA symposium website,.

2020 LISA Symposium Cancelled


Due to the ongoing global emergency, organizers for the LISA Symposium originally planned for this July in Glasgow have decided that it can no longer take place. Discussions are in progress to consider an alternative meeting format this year and a timeline for a rescheduled Symposium. Updates will be posted as decisions are announced.

New round of LISA Preparatory Science posted in ROSES-2020


NASA has posted a new opportunity to ROSES-2020 calling for proposals to the LISA Preparatory Science Program. This program provides support for U.S. investigators to conduct activities that contribute to furthering the eventual science yield of LISA, inluding waveform simulations, analysis techniques, cross-disciplinary studies, preparatory astrophysical observations, and more. Mandatory NOIs are due by 15 September 2020, and the proposal due date is 15 December 2020. Read the announcement.

NASA Awards LISA telescope contract to New York firm


The development of the LISA telescopes is one of NASA's primary hardware contributions to the ESA-led mission. On March 16, 2020, NASA announced that the engineering unit development contract for the planned telescope design has been awarded to L3Harris Corporation, located in Rochester, NY. The development and testing of an engineering unit is a major step in producing space-ready hardware for the mission. Read the announcement

LISA Symposium — Save the Date!
19-24 July 2020
Glasgow, Scotland


It is five months to the start of this year's LISA Symposium! The website and the registration form details are not yet finalized, but they will be available very soon with registration anticipated to open at the end of this month and abstract submission opening during March.

The Symposium will be formally opened at a complimentary welcome event in the University of Glasgow's Hunterian Museum on Sunday 19th July. The Symposium will then run from 9am on Monday 20th till 5pm on Friday 24th July in the Bute Hall with the conference dinner taking place mid-week at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. Along side these formal conference activities and lots of informal opportunities to meet with colleagues there will be a number of social events that may be reserved through the registration page.

For inquiries, you may contact

LISA Interest Survey
Due: January 10, 2020


Attention US researchers! The NASA LISA Study Team is requesting your input regarding the future use of data from the LISA gravitational wave observatory. Even if your research area is not directly related to gravitational waves, we welcome your feedback to gauge the needs and interests of the broad US astronomical research community. This 16 question survey should take 5 or 10 minutes to complete. We welcome your input by Friday, January 10, 2020.

LISA Passes Review Milestone


LISA has successfully completed the Mission Consolidation Review (MCR), a review conducted by the European Space Agency (ESA) to assess progress at the middle of Phase A. The review team examined the current state of the mission design, payload developments, and programatic planning at this early stage in the mission formulation process. NASA supported ESA in this review by providing inputs on NASA technology development activities as well as subject matter experts who assisted in reviewing materials. The LISA team will now focus on the activities for the remainder of mission Phase A.

NASA's LISA Study Team welcomes new membership


The NASA LISA Study Team welcomes seven new members to it's ranks! For information about the current NLST membership and alumni who have stepped down, please consult the Study Team Roster.

Call for Nominations to Augment the NASA LISA Study Team
Due: October 11, 2019


NASA welcomes nominations, including self-nominations, for new members of the NASA LISA Study Team (deadline: October 11, 2019). We particularly encourage people of diverse backgrounds, skills, career stages, and viewpoints to apply. See the full text of the call and application instructions for more information.

Newly discovered binary system will be a strong LISA source


Astronomers using the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF) have announced the discovery of ZTFJ1539+5027, a pair of white dwarfs that orbit one another roughly every seven minutes. This system will be a strong LISA source, detecable after roughly one week of observing and with a total signal-to-noise ratio of nearly 200 in a four-year LISA mission.

First Results from GRACE-FO's Laser Interferometer


The first results from the Laser Ranging Instrument (LRI) on the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow On (GRACE-FO) mission were published in Physical Review Letters on July 19th, 2019. The GRACE-FO mission maps the Earth's gravity field by precisely tracking the relative positions of a pair of spacecraft that orbit the Earth. The LRI makes these measurements using heterodyne laser interferometry, the same technique that will be used for LISA. These first results from LRI demonstrate nanometer-level precision over the 220km range between the GRACE-FO satellites.

Event Horizon Telescope makes first image of a black hole


The Event Horizon Telescope project, an international effort to link radio telescopes across Earth to build a planet-sized telescope with superb angular resolution has made the first image of a black hole. The image is of gas surrounding a black hole of nearly six billion solar masses in the galaxy M87. LISA will measure the mergers of massive black holes which are the ancestors of these supermassive black holes.

Ground-based gravitational wave observatories begin 3rd observing run


O3, the third observing run of the advanced ground-based gravitational wave detectors has begun after the LIGO and Virgo teams have spent over a year upgrading their instruments to improved sensitivities. O3 is expected to last for a full year with increased event rates. O3 will also feature low-latency, public alerts which will enable follow-up of gravitational wave events by a variety of astronomical facilities.

LISA Data Challenge


The first data set for the LISA Data Challenge has been released by the LISA Consortium. If you'd like to try your hand at extracting gravitational wave sources from simulated LISA data, you can download tools and data at the Data Challenge Website. The deadline for entries to this first challenge will be near the end of 2018.

LISA Symposium Program Posted


The scientific program for the 12th International LISA Symposium is now posted on the conference website . The meeting will feature talks on the LISA mission, enabling technologies, data analysis, astrophysics, and related topics. Over 200 researchers from around the world will attend the conference in Chicago July 8th-13th. Late registration will be available until the start of the conference.

LISA Symposium Conference Website

GRACE-FO Launches LISA Technology


The Gravity Recovery And Climate Explorer Follow-On (GRACE-FO) mission launched from Vandenberg AFB on a mission to map the Earth's gravitational field. While the primary spacecraft systems are a rebuild of the original GRACE mission, GRACE-FO carries the Laser Ranging Interferometer (LRI) technology demonstration which will use laser interferometry to measure nanometer changes between the two GRACE-FO spacecraft flying roughly 300km apart from one another. The LRI was built by a US-German collaboration that includes many LISA veterans and takes advantage of technologies that were originally developed to support LISA. The advancement of these technologies for GRACE-FO now adds experience that can be applied to LISA.


LISA Symposium Registration Open


The LISA Symposium being held in Chicago, IL on July 8-13 is still accepting registrations. This is the 12th edition of the once-per-two-year meeting that covers all aspects of LISA including mission development, instrumentation, theory, analysis, and astrophysics. The Abstract deadline closed on May 9th, 2018.

12th International LISA Symposium Now Accepting Abstracts


Abstract submissions are open for the 12th International LISA Symposium, to be held 8-13 July 2018 in Chicago, IL. Submissions can be made at the abstract submission page.

The LISA Symposium is a wide-ranging conference that addresses the broad astrophysical scope of LISA science, mission, and technology development, as well as challenges and interesting questions facing the astrophysics and gravitational wave community.

If you still have not registered for the Symposium, visit the registration page.

We are looking forward to seeing you in Chicago this summer!

LISA Preparatory Science (LPS) ROSES Solicitation: Proposals Due June 14, 2018


NASA is pleased to announce the LISA Preparatory Science (LPS) solicitation, as part of ROSES2018 (element D.13). The LPS will support science data analysis and LISA-related astrophysics research of US-based scientists. As part of the international LISA Consortium, US investigators will conduct research projects aimed at augmenting and complementing the LISA Consortium Data Analysis Work Packages as well as NASA LISA Study Office science and data activities . Proposers for the LISA Preparatory Science (LPS) solicitation should consult the LPS FAQ that is available at the NSPIRES website.

We look forward to your ideas!

Please note: Notices of Intent are mandatory for LPS and were due March 19, 2018. All questions should be addressed to the HQ POC for LPS, POC Rita Sambruna,

Registration open for the 12th International LISA Symposium - July 8-13 2018


The 12th International LISA Symposium will be held in Chicago, IL on July 8-13. This biennial meeting covers the full range of LISA topics including astrophysics, data analysis, technology development, and mission development. This year's Symposium is hosted by the Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astrophysics (CIERA) at Northwestern University, and co-sponsored by the American Astronomical Society. Registration and hotel reservations are open now and Abstract submission will open soon.

NOI for LISA Preparatory Science: full list of team members + deadline extended to 19 March 2018


Note to community: please make sure to visit the LISA Preparatory Science (LPS) FAQ (on the ROSES website), and -particularly- note the strong encouragment to include the full list of team members in the NOI.

This amendment delays due dates in anticipation of power loss to New England as a result of the upcoming storm. The mandatory NOI due date for ROSES-2018 D.13 LISA Preparatory Science has been changed to Monday March 19, 2018. The full proposal due date for D.13 LISA Preparatory Science remains June 14, 2018.

Questions concerning ROSES-2018 D.13 LISA Preparatory Science may be directed to POC: Rita Sambruna,



Proposers for the LISA Preparatory Science (LPS) solicitation should consult the LPS FAQ that is available at the ROSES website (element D.13)

All questions should be addressed to the HQ POC for LPS, POC: Rita Sambruna,

LISA Preparatory Science (LPS) ROSES Solicitation: Mandatory NOI Due March 15, 2018


NASA is pleased to announce the release in February 2018 of the LISA Preparatory Science (LPS) solicitation, as part of ROSES2018 (element D.13). The LPS will support science data analysis and LISA-related astrophysics research of US-based scientists. As part of the international LISA Consortium, US investigators will conduct research projects aimed at augmenting and complementing the LISA Consortium Data Analysis Work Packages as well as NASA LISA Study Office science and data activities .

Please note: Notices of Intent will be mandatory for LPS and are due March 15, 2018. Failure to submit an NOI may result in your proposal being returned without evaluation. We look forward to your ideas! POC: Rita Sambruna,


Why LISA? ...Gravitational Waves.

What are Gravitational Waves?

This movie shows a simulation of the merger of two black holes and the resulting emission of gravitational radiation. The very fabric of space and time is distorted by massive objects, which is shown here by the colored fields. The outer sheets (red) correspond directly to outgoing gravitational radiation, which was recently detected by the NSF's LIGO observatories. Credit: NASA/C. Henze

Gravitational waves were first theorized by Albert Einstein. They are created during events such as supermassive black hole mergers, or collisions between two black holes that are billion times bigger than our Sun. These collisions are so powerful that they create distortions in spacetime, known as gravitational waves.

Gravitational waves detectable by the LISA mission could also come from other distant systems including smaller stellar mass black holes orbiting supermassive black holes, known as Extreme Mass Ratio Inspirals (EMRIs).

What do Gravitational Waves tell us?

There are many astrophysical phenomena that are either very dim or completely invisible in any form of light that astronomy has relied on for 400 years. Gravitational waves are a powerful new probe of the Universe that uses gravity instead of light to take measure of dynamical astrophysical phenomena. Studying gravitational waves gives enormous potential for discovering the parts of the universe that are invisible by other means, such as black holes, the Big Bang, and other, as yet unknown, objects. LISA will complement our knowledge about the beginning, evolution and structure of our universe.

How are Gravitational Waves observed?

LIGO/VIRGO Detections
Click Image to Zoom. Masses of detected LIGO/Virgo compact binaries. This plot shows the masses of all compact binaries detected by LIGO/Virgo, with black holes in blue and neutron stars in orange. The objects are arranged in order of discovery date. Details/Credit: LIGO-Virgo/Aaron Geller/Northwestern.

Opening the Gravitational Wave Window

On September 14, 2015, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO), a ground-based gravitational wave observatory, made history by detecting the first gravitational waves from the merger of two stellar mass black holes. Since then, LIGO and its European counterpart VIRGO, have announced the detection of numerous black hole systems and a few neutron star systems merging. In addition, in 2017 LIGO detected a neutron star merger which also produced light detected by dozens of telescopes on the ground and in space. This represented nothing less than the birth of an entirely new field of astronomy.

Side-by-side images of LIGO Livingston and the Green Bank Telescope
Click Image to Zoom. The LIGO Laboratory operates two detector sites, one near Hanford in eastern Washington, and another near Livingston, Louisiana. The left-hand photo shows the Livingston detector site. Pulsar timing arrays use radio telescopes to capture the signals they use for gravitational wave detection. The right-hand photo shows the Green Bank Telescope, one of the instruments used by the NANOGrav PTA. Credits: Left - Caltech/MIT/LIGO Lab, Right - Jay Young for Green Bank Observatory

Ground Based Gravitational Wave Astronomy

Some gravitational waves can be detected by ground-based interferometers including LIGO, VIRGO, KAGRA, and LIGO India. These facilities use lasers to detect the tiny ripples in spacetime caused by mergers of neutron stars and stellar-mass black holes. New kinds of events, such as nearby supernovae, may be detected as well. Localization of the source of the event requires a detection in two or more of these detectors, allowing triangulation of the region of the sky where the merger likely originated. Mergers are announced via Public Alerts that are available through an app or the General Coordinates Network (GCN).

Low-frequency Gravitational Waves

Some gravitational wave sources are not detectable by even the most advanced ground-based detectors. Gravitational waves at low frequencies have wavelengths larger than the Earth itself.

Pulsar Timing Arrays

Gravitational waves at very low frequencies have wavelengths of order tens of light years. Pulsar Timing Arrays (PTAs) use pulsars — rapidly rotating, highly magnetic neutron stars that emit beams of radio emission — as cosmic timekeepers. These experiments regularly observe radio pulsars to search for shifts in the pulse arrival times caused by the passage of gravitational waves between the pulsar and the telescope. The low-frequency gravitational waves being observed by PTAs are likely to have been produced by pairs of supermassive black holes in a binary system, formed after galaxy mergers.

However, some gravitational waves have frequencies between the gravitational waves detectable by ground-based instruments, and those being observed by pulsar timing arrays. Their wavelengths are too long to be seen by LIGO, but much shorter than the tens of light years being explored by the PTAs.

Space-based Interferometery

Deploying an antenna large enough to efficiently detect them requires going to space. LISA's three spacecraft will create an equilateral triangle in space and the paths between each pair of spacecraft, referred to as LISA's arms, will extend millions of miles. By measuring distance changes in these arms caused by passing gravitational waves, LISA will be able to measure their amplitude, direction and polarization. Astronomers will use this information to learn about the sources in this previously-unexplored region of the gravitational wave spectrum.

Why do we need to go to space?

A space-based configuration allows for an extremely large detector to study regions of the gravitational wave spectrum that are inaccessible from Earth.

gravitational wave spectrum
Click Image to Zoom. There are promising detection techniques across the entire gravitational wave spectrum, which is populated by a broad range of astrophysical sources. The spectrum in the region probed by LISA is one of the most interesting, populated by a rich diversity in astrophysical phenomena of interest to astronomers and astrophysicists.

A Different Frequency Range for Different Objects

The gravitational wave spectrum covers a broad span of frequencies. LISA operates in the low frequency range, between 0.1 mHz and 1 Hz (compared to LIGO's frequency of 10 Hz to 1000 Hz). The difference means that the waves LISA is looking for have a much longer wavelength, corresponding to objects in much wider orbits and potentially much heavier than those that LIGO is searching for, opening up the detection realm to a wider range of gravitational wave sources.

LISA has three spacecraft that form an equilateral triangle in space where the sides of the triangle, also called LISA's "arms", extend about a million miles. Therefore, from space, LISA can avoid the noise from Earth and access regions of the spectrum that are inaccessible from Earth due to these extremely long arms. The gravitational wave sources that LISA would discover include ultra-compact binaries in our Galaxy, supermassive black hole mergers, and extreme mass ratio inspirals, among other exotic possibilities.

What is LISA?

LISA is a space-based gravitational wave detector constructed of three spacecraft
separated by millions of miles.

LISA's enormous detector size and orbit, trailing behind the Earth as it orbits the Sun, are illustrated here. Credit: AEI/Milde Marketing

LISA's Size and Precision are Out of this World

LISA consists of three spacecraft that are separated by millions of miles and trailing tens of millions of miles, more than one hundred times the distance to the Moon, behind the Earth as we orbit the Sun. These three spacecraft relay laser beams back and forth between the different spacecraft and the signals are combined to search for gravitational wave signatures that come from distortions of spacetime. We need a giant detector the size of the Sun to catch gravitational waves from orbiting black holes millions of times more massive than our Sun. NASA is a partner in the European Space Agency (ESA)-led mission, which is scheduled to launch in the mid-2030s and we are getting ready for it now!

How does LISA Detect Gravitational Waves?

Gravitational wave events will cause the three LISA spacecraft to shift slightly with respect to each other.

LISA laser beam
Click Image To Zoom. LISA will observe a passing gravitational wave directly by measuring the tiny changes in distance between freely falling proof masses inside spacecraft with its high precision measurement system. Credit: AEI/MM/exozet

Catching Waves

A bit like the objects moving on the surface of a pond produce ripples and waves, massive objects moving in space distort the fabric of spacetime and produce gravitational waves. Some of these gravitational wave events will cause the three LISA spacecraft to shift slightly with respect to each other, as they "ride the gravitational waves", to produce a characteristic pattern in the combined laser beam signal that depends on the location and physical properties of the source.

LISA is Extremely High Precision

These signals are extremely small and require a very sensitive instrument to detect. For example, LISA aims to measure relative shifts in position that are less than the diameter of a helium nucleus over a distance of a million miles, or in technical terms: a strain of 1 part in 1020 at frequencies of about a millihertz.

The LISA Pathfinder Mission was a proof-of-concept mission to test and prove the technology needed for LISA's success.

What is LISA Pathfinder?

LISA Pathfinder Mission was a proof-of-concept mission for LISA.

lisa pathfinder artists impression
Click Image to Zoom. LISA Pathfinder operated from a vantage point in space about 1.5 million km from Earth towards the Sun, orbiting the first Sun-Earth Lagrangian point, L1. Credit: ESA - C.Carreau

LISA Pathfinder Exceeded Expectations

LISA Pathfinder was launched on December 3, 2015 as a proof-of-concept that tests that the noise characteristics of free-floating test masses within the spacecraft are small enough compared to an expected gravitational wave signal. Completing its mission in July, 2017, LISA Pathfinder was able to reduce noise levels by a factor of 100 over its target requirements, demonstrating the performance needed for the full LISA mission.

lisa pathfinder characteristics
View/Download: 1500px Full Screen | 3508px Full Screen

This plot shows the primary result from LISA Pathfinder's year and a half of science operations. The plot shows the measured level of imperfection from pure free-fall of the two gold-platinum test masses. The solid and hatched shaded areas show the designed level of performance for LISA Pathfinder and LISA respectively. The blue trace shows the preliminary result from Pathfinder, which was obtained just two months after science operations began. The red trace shows the final result, obtained in February 2017 after the instrument was tuned to improve performance. These measurements demonstrate that the technology developed for Pathfinder can be used as the basis for LISA's detection of gravitational waves.
Credit: ESA/LISA Pathfinder Collaboration.

Related Articles


Who's Involved?

Led by ESA, the project is a collaboration of ESA, NASA, and the global scientific community.

ESA and NASA logos

LISA is led by the European Space Agency (ESA) as a large-class mission in the Cosmic Visions Programme. ESA is responsible for the spacecraft, launch vehicle, operations, and overall mission design. Key elements of LISA’s instrumentation are provided by a collection of European National Agencies and NASA. The scientific community is organized through an international consortium of scientists that brings together global expertise in gravitational wave astronomy.

What is NASA's Role?

NASA will provide three key elements of the LISA instrumentation. The laser system will provide a stable light source for the interferometric measurements used to sense the presence of passing gravitational waves. Telescope systems will allow the laser light to be efficiently transmitted across the 2.5 million kilometer (1.6 million mile) distances between spacecraft. Charge management devices will reduce the buildup of electric charge on the freely-flying LISA test masses, preventing unwanted electrostatic disturbances.

In addition to its hardware deliverables, NASA is developing software to process the telemetry from the LISA constellation to identify and characterize individual gravitational wave signals. This data will be publicly available to the global scientific community to enable a wide array of scientific investigations.

In addition to these specific deliverables, NASA is supporting ESA with scientific and systems engineering expertise to ensure the integrated LISA system functions as a single scientific instrument sensitive to the subtle vibrations of spacetime.

For more informtation, read more about our activities.

How to Get Involved

Slideshow of people participating in LISA-related activities
The LISA community is growing! This slideshow shows members of the LISA community around the world sharing awareness of the mission with scientists, students, and others. If you're interested in getting involved, don't hesitate to contact one of the groups listed here.
Black hole merger simulation of gravitational waves
Click Image to Zoom. Numerical simulation of the emission produced during the merger of two black holes. Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center More Info

Contact Points for LISA at NASA

  • LISA Program Executive: Dr. Shahid Habib, NASA HQ
  • LISA Program Scientist: Dr. Thomas Hams, NASA HQ
  • LISA Project Manager: Mr. Terence Doiron, NASA GSFC
  • LISA Project Scientist: Dr. James Ira Thorpe, NASA GSFC

For Scientists

Education and Outreach Resources


The LISA Ambassadors are current graduate students whose research interests lie in black hole physics, understanding the properties of supermassive black holes, gravitational wave astronomy, or related subjects. They receive in-depth training on how to communicate with high school students and the general public about the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) mission and the importance of gravitational wave astrophysics. Ambassadors play an essential role in generating public interest in this exciting European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA mission.

Participating Institutions
  • Marshall Space Flight Center: Dr. Tyson Littenberg
  • University of Washington Bothell: Dr. Joey Shapiro Key
  • Vanderbilt University: Dr.Kelly Holley-Bockelmann
  • Yale University: Dr. Priya Natarajan
Links to gravitational wave education resources for teachers and students

Citizen Science Projects