Cosmic Explorer

a next generation gravitational wave detector

High-Level Features

Cosmic Explorer builds on the experience and success of current detectors, to create a next generation of instruments with an order of magnitude more sensitivity than Advanced LIGO. Several features define the Cosmic Explorer concept, and serve to differentiate it from other next-gen detectors.


Like the current generation of detectors, Cosmic Explorer features an L-shaped geometry and houses a single interferometer. This conventional design allows us to leverage decades of experience with current gravitational-wave detectors to ensure project success.


The scale of Cosmic Explorer is set by our astro-physical sources. A 40 kilometer long detector, 10 times longer than Advanced LIGO, is well suited to detecting signals from binary neutron star systems and core-collapse supernovae up to 4 kHz in frequency. This length also provides sensitivity sufficient to detect binary black holes from anywhere in the Universe (up to redshift of roughly 100).


While the lay-out of Cosmic Explorer follows the conventional design, the technology used for the detector will be updated to reflect the successes of on-going reseach. One such research effort is the exploration of silicon optics operating at 123K which enable the use of ultra-low-noise optical coatings.

Due to the nature of gravitational waves, detector length is critial to performance. It is, however, also a cost-driver for this type of big science project. We are actively exploring ways to extend industrial pipeline technology and novel vacuum sytems to provide an affordable design.

Incredible Science

Binary Black Hole Merger

The gravitational cataclysm which happens when a pair of black holes merge is a mind boggling event, even for scientists accostomed to dealing with the Einstein's general theory of relativity. Gravitational waves were first observed from one of these events by LIGO in 2015, and they have given us a glipse of a previously unknown side of the Universe.

Binary Neutron Star Merger

The merger of a pair of neutron stars provides a unique laboratory for studying ultra-dense nuclear matter. The first such merger observed in gravitational waves, GW170817, was also observed by electromagnetic telescopes acreoss the spectrum, yeilding what as been called "a century of physics in a day".

The Crab Nebula

There are many potential science targets for Cosmic Explorer beyond black-hole and neutron-star binaries. Among them are core collapse supernova, continuous-wave sources like rotating isolated neutron-stars, and even a stochastic gravitational-wave background!