Design of a dual species atom interferometer for space

Experimental Astronomy 39:2 167-206 (2015) (link) (local link) (arXive)
Thilo Schuldt et al.Abstract:
Atom interferometers have a multitude of proposed applications in space including precise measurements of the Earth’s gravitational field, in navigation & ranging, and in fundamental physics such as tests of the weak equivalence principle (WEP) and gravitational wave detection. While atom interferometers are realized routinely in ground-based laboratories, current efforts aim at the development of a space compatible design optimized with respect to dimensions, weight, power consumption, mechanical robustness and radiation hardness. In this paper, we present a design of a high-sensitivity differential dual species 85Rb/87Rb atom interferometer for space, including physics package, laser system, electronics and software. The physics package comprises the atom source consisting of dispensers and a 2D magneto- optical trap (MOT), the science chamber with a 3D-MOT, a magnetic trap based on an atom chip and an optical dipole trap (ODT) used for Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC) creation and interferometry, the detection unit, the vascuum system for 10-11 mbar ultra-high vacuum generation, and the high-suppression factor magnetic shielding as well as the thermal control system. The laser system is based on a hybrid approach using fiber-based telecom components and high-power laser diode technology and includes all laser sources for 2D-MOT, 3D-MOT, ODT, interferometry and detection. Manipulation and switching of the laser beams is carried out on an optical bench using Zerodur bonding technology. The instrument consists of 9 units with an overall mass of 221 kg, an average power consumption of 608 W (819 W peak), and a volume of 470 liters which would well fit on a satellite to be launched with a Soyuz rocket, as system studies have shown.