Cold atom quantum accelerometer for space systems

November 25, 2020 // By Nick Flaherty
Cold Atom Space Payload (CASPA) Accelerometer for the Centre for Earth Observation Instrumentation (CEOI).
Teledyne e2v’s Space & Quantum team is to develop a cold atom quantum accelerometer for an instrument to measure the upper atmosphere

Teledyne e2v’s Space & Quantum team in the UK is to help develop a quantum accelerometer small enough for space applications.

The Essex-based team will work with the STFC RALSpace in Harwell and University of Birmingham in the development of the Cold Atom Space Payload (CASPA) Accelerometer for the Centre for Earth Observation Instrumentation (CEOI).

The CASPA Accelerometer project aims to develop a cold atom quantum instrument to take highly sensitive measurements of atmospheric drag.

The Earth’s upper atmosphere is a highly active region that plays a key role in the planet’s energy transfer, influencing climate and weather. Understanding the dynamics of the Earth’s upper atmosphere will rely on extremely sensitive measurement of the forces acting on a specially designed satellite as it passes through the rarefied atmosphere of Very Low Earth Orbit (VLEO).

The accelerometer will use alkali atoms cooled by lasers close to absolute zero without using cryogenics. The challenge is to reduce the power and size so that the cold atom cloud, which is only a few millimetres in diameter, can be used in a  future space mission to improve the understanding of upper atmospheric dynamics and drive advances in climate modelling, weather forecasting and satellite orbit prediction

This project will build on Teledyne e2v’s previous work to build a CASPA CubeSat, which demonstrated a cold atom trap and represents a major step toward using cold atoms for space applications.

The CEOI Centre, founded in 2017, is a partnership of Airbus, research group QinetiQ, STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory and the University of Leicester.

www.teledyne-e2v.com; uknqt.epsrc.ac.uk/; ceoi.ac.uk

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Picture: 
The Cold Atom Space Payload (CASPA) quantum Accelerometer for the Centre for Earth Observation Instrumentation (CEOI).

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