We propose to build a compact, high-precision single-axis accelerometer based on atom interferometry that is applicable to operation in space environments. Based on our successful Phase I design, the proposed accelerometer emphasizes reliable operation and exceptional acceleration sensitivity. It incorporates several innovative features that make it appropriate for a variety of space-based and terrestrial applications. Phase II will result in a completed sensor build, including a sensor head, laser system and electronic control system. Space-based inertial sensors based on atom interferometry are a compelling technology for both technological and scientific applications because of the exceptionally high performance that can be enabled by long interrogation times with cold atoms in a microgravity environment.More »
Inertial measurement units based on the proposed accelerometer technology will be applicable to space-based inertial navigation, including navigation around small bodies such as asteroids. Operating as a gravimeter, the proposed design can be used for Earth geoid measurement and gravity tomography of asteroids. An updated version capable of gravity gradiometry will be capable of gravity-compensation of inertial navigation systems, in addition to improved gravity mapping capabilities. The Phase II prototype will serve as a demonstration of several technologies that are relevant for gravity wave detection. Future iterations of the sensor will ultimately enable gravity wave detection missions.
The Phase II build will result in an accelerometer capable of acceleration sensitivity that is better than current state-of-the-art conventional absolute gravimeters based on free-fall measurements. Several commercial applications requiring earth-based gravimetry could therefore benefit from the sensor design. Seismic studies and geophysical exploration, including gravity mapping of prospective oil fields and mineral deposits, will benefit from the sensor technology. Trades of sensor bandwidth versus sensitivity will enable the design to apply to inertial navigation on a variety of ground vehicle, sea-based and flight platforms.
|Organizations Performing Work
|Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC)