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Proceedings Paper • Open Access

A transportable cold atom inertial sensor for space applications
Author(s): V. Ménoret; R. Geiger; G. Stern; P. Cheinet; B. Battelier; N. Zahzam; F. Pereira Dos Santos; A. Bresson; A. Landragin; P. Bouyer

Paper Abstract

Atom interferometry has hugely benefitted from advances made in cold atom physics over the past twenty years, and ultra-precise quantum sensors are now available for a wide range of applications [1]. In particular, cold atom interferometers have shown excellent performances in the field of acceleration and rotation measurements [2,3], and are foreseen as promising candidates for navigation, geophysics, geo-prospecting and tests of fundamental physics such as the Universality of Free Fall (UFF). In order to carry out a test of the UFF with atoms as test masses, one needs to compare precisely the accelerations of two atoms with different masses as they fall in the Earth’s gravitational field. The sensitivity of atom interferometers scales like the square of the time during which the atoms are in free fall, and on ground this interrogation time is limited by the size of the experimental setup to a fraction of a second. Sending an atom interferometer in space would allow for several seconds of excellent free-fall conditions, and tests of the UFF could be carried out with precisions as low as 10-15 [4].

However, cold atoms experiments rely on complex laser systems, which are needed to cool down and manipulate the atoms, and these systems are usually very sensitive to temperature fluctuations and vibrations. In addition, when operating an inertial sensor, vibrations are a major issue, as they deteriorate the performances of the instrument. This is why cold atom interferometers are usually used in ground based facilities, which provide stable enough environments. In order to carry out airborne or space-borne measurements, one has to design an instrument which is both compact and stable, and such that vibrations induced by the platform will not deteriorate the sensitivity of the sensor.

We report on the operation of an atom interferometer on board a plane carrying out parabolic flights (Airbus A300 Zero-G, operated by Novespace). We have constructed a compact and stable laser setup, which is well suited for onboard applications. Our goal is to implement a dual-species Rb-K atom interferometer in order to carry out a test of the UFF in the plane. In this perspective, we are designing a dual-wavelength laser source, which will enable us to cool down and coherently manipulate the quantum states of both atoms. We have successfully tested a preliminary version of the source and obtained a double species magneto-optical trap (MOT).

Paper Details

Date Published: 20 November 2017
PDF: 7 pages
Proc. SPIE 10565, International Conference on Space Optics — ICSO 2010, 1056530 (20 November 2017); doi: 10.1117/12.2309256
Show Author Affiliations
V. Ménoret, Lab. Charles Fabry, Institut d’Optique, CNRS, Univ. Paris-Sud (France)
R. Geiger, Lab. Charles Fabry, Institut d’Optique, CNRS, Univ. Paris-Sud (France)
G. Stern, Lab. Charles Fabry, Institut d’Optique, CNRS, Univ. Paris-Sud (France)
P. Cheinet, Lab. Charles Fabry, Institut d’Optique, CNRS, Univ. Paris-Sud (France)
B. Battelier, Lab. Charles Fabry, Institut d’Optique, CNRS, Univ. Paris-Sud (France)
N. Zahzam, ONERA (France)
F. Pereira Dos Santos, Observatoire de Paris (France)
A. Bresson, ONERA (France)
A. Landragin, Observatoire de Paris (France)
P. Bouyer, Lab. Charles Fabry, Institut d’Optique, CNRS, Univ. Paris-Sud (France)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 10565:
International Conference on Space Optics — ICSO 2010
Errico Armandillo; Bruno Cugny; Nikos Karafolas, Editor(s)

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