Designed as a platform to test new electronics and thrusters for a future spacecraft, LISA Pathfinder will set the stage as the European Space Agency and NASA develop steps in studying ripples in the fabric of space-time. The experimental spacecraft, valued at nearly 400M EUROS, is scheduled to operate for six months first by operating its science module before starting up a propulsion module.
The pioneering mission began a day late due to a last minute technical issue with the rocket's upper stage. Engineers worked through the night on Tuesday to clear Vega for flight. The Arianespace launch team then started the official countdown eight hours prior to the rocket's ignition.
Lift-off of the lightweight Vega occurred on time at 11:04 p.m. EST (1:04 am local time) from the Kourou Space Center located on the edge of the Amazon jungles of South America. Overcast skies helped create a brightness as the core main engine throttled the rocket stack up and out over the mid-Atlantic waters.