New developments in quantum technology have resulted in the ability to cool atoms close to absolute zero using lasers. At these temperatures, laboratory experiments have shown that these “cold atoms” can be used as ultra-sensitive sensors for measuring gravity.
CASPA will translate leading UK science into commercial products for space and other markets. It will take the technology out of the laboratory and build it into a small satellite payload that is capable of producing “cold atoms” in space.
This technology is already on the European Space Agency’s (ESA) key technology roadmap and in its envisioned future missions. Crucially CASPA will address the technology maturity gap that is preventing this technology from being selected.
Working with our partners: University of Birmingham, Clyde Space, Covesion, Gooch and Housego, University of Southampton, and XCAM, we will enable the systems engineering and subsystem development necessary to deliver a pre-flight payload in an autonomous, compact, low power consumption form factor that could be flown on a CubeSat. Demonstrating this new technology in space is a vital first step towards realising real instruments that are capable of mapping tiny changes in the strength of gravity across the surface of the earth.
The extreme sensitivity brought by “cold atom” sensors will provide the ability to finely monitor the movement of mass within Earth systems. This has multiple applications including more accurate monitoring of changes in polar ice mass, ocean currents and sea level.
Higher resolution data will lead to the ability to monitor smaller water sources and discover new underground natural resources which are currently not detectable.
Similar technology will also be used for deep space navigation and for providing higher precision timing sources in space.