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QT for Space: Atom Interferometry Chamber for a Compact Gravity Gradiometer in Space

Thu, 11/23/2023 - 02:00
Start Date: 
2023
Programme: 
GSTP
End Date: 
2030
Programme Reference: 
GT17-187MMa
Country: 
United Kingdom
Prime Contractor: 
RAL Space
Status: 
Closed
Objectives: 

Objective(s):

The objectives of this activity are to build a breadboard of a vacuum chamber that would allow the free drift of a cold atoms cloud during its interrogation in an atom interferometer. This serves as a de-risking activity for a future space deployment of this technology in a gravity mission

 

Description: 

Background and justification:

Spaceborne Gravity gradiometry is an important tool to better understand mass transport in the earth system. Current technology is limited by the inherent electronic noise floor of the detectors and its long term drift. Atom Interferometry based accelerometers offer the opportunity of reducing the noise floor and are free of drift.
The TRL for Atom Interferometry systems in space is currently relatively low, and an important push upwards is required.

Achievements and status:

The breadboard has been completed successfully meeting all the requirements
The chamber has the correct geometry, and it holds a vacuum with a pressure (maintained without active mechanical pumps) of 10−1110^(-11) mbar
Optical access is as required and windows haven’t suffered any degradation during the process required to achieve the above vacuum
Some potential problems for a future flight payload have been identified and recommendations have been issued.

 

Benefits:

The activity has served as a de-risking activity helping identifying potential future issues and the way to mitigate them
The some of the results can be used in other payload that may make use of atom interferometry for other applications (eg fundamental science studies)

 

Application Domain: 
Generic Technologies
Technology Domain: 
6 - RF Subsystems, Payloads and Technologies
Competence Domain: 
5-Radiofrequency & Optical Systems and Products
Keywords: 
Quantum
Initial TRL: 
TRL 2
Target TRL: 
TRL 4
Achieved TRL: 
TRL 4
Public Document: 
Type: 
Executive Summary