To meet NASA’s interest in advancing quantum sensing technologies, the development and maturation towards space application and qualification of atomic systems are needed. Atom interferometers have unmatched precision for in-situ measurements of local gravity acceleration. The Size, Weight, and Power consumption (SWaP) of existing atom interferometers is a major obstacle for employing them in NASA missions. One of the main components of an atom interferometer is an ultra-high vacuum (UHV) system. UHV chambers are typically the heaviest components of atom interferometers. A light, compact, and energy-efficient UHV system will be highly beneficial for NASA missions.
In this proposal, Q-Peak is addressing the need for lighter, compact, energy-efficient UHV systems suitable for atom interferometer. In particular, we propose to use an aluminum alloy that is 30% lighter than stainless steel to reduce an UHV chamber weight. The aluminum alloy can be machined using a metallic powder bed fusion process that removes the constraint of traditional manufacturing considerations. Furthermore, Q-Peak will focus on developing passive pumping based on non-evaporable getter pumps. Passive pumping can reduce the energy consumption of an UHV system. Other aspects of the UHV system suitable for atom cooling experiment will be addressed: bonding vacuum windows to the aluminum alloy, energy-efficient and reliable alkali-atom sources, and so on. The developed UHV system will find direct application to atom interferometers, drastically reducing their SWaP without compromising residual gas pressure and optical access.
Keeping track of the actual spacecraft position is a key part of navigation for any spacecraft. Accurate in situ gravimetry based on atom interferometry can be used for satellite-based global gravity field mapping. Atom interferometry is a potential technology to gather the type of data currently produced by NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-On mission. Europa Clipper can use an atom interferometer for determining the most likely locations to gain access to subsurface material.
Stable and precise accelerometers and gyroscopes are required for navigation and can be used for ships and planes. They are especially advantageous in situations when GPS signal is absent and a high accuracy is required. Such devices can be of great value to the US Navy.