29 Sep 2023



LISA (​The Laser Interferometer Space Antenna) will be the first gravitational wave observatory in space.

Artists concept of what LISA will look like in space. It looks like a disc firing lasers.



LISA consists of three spacecraft orbiting the Sun in a triangular configuration, connected by three 'arms' of a laser interferometer. 

Each spacecraft will include two optical benches built in the lab at UK ATC in Edinburgh.

Robotically Assisted Bonding of Components (RAB-C), developed by UK ATC and University of Glasgow, will play a crucial role in LISA. RAB-C was developed as the precision required to place and bond components in the construction of the optical benches would be impossible by human hand.

Funded by the UK Space Agency RAB-C can operate with an accuracy of just a few microns (one millionth of a metre). RAB-C has officially passed its Technology Readiness Assessment from the European Space Agency who are leading the mission, with support from collaborative partner NASA.

​The optical benches send and receive laser beams over a 2.5 million km distance between LISA's three spacecraft, they also measure distance changes between the spacecraft with an accuracy of a few trillionths of a metre. The signals will be combined to search for gravitational wave signatures that come from distortions of spacetime produced by astronomical sources such as colliding black holes. 

LISA is expected to launch in the mid-2030s​​.

Find out more about LISA.​