The detection of Earth-like exoplanets in the habitable zone of their stars, and their spectroscopic characterization in a search for biosignatures, requires starlight suppression that exceeds the current best ground-based performance by orders of magnitude. The required planet/star brightness ratio of order 10−10 at visible wavelengths can be obtained by blocking stellar photons with an occulter, either externally (a starshade) or internally (a coronagraph) to the telescope system, and managing diffracted starlight, so as to directly image the exoplanet in reflected starlight. Coronagraph instruments require advancement in telescope aperture (either monolithic or segmented), aperture obscurations (obscured by secondary mirror and its support struts), and wavefront error sensitivity (e.g. line-of-sight jitter, telescope vibration, polarization). The starshade, which has never been used in a science application, benefits a mission by being decoupled from the telescope, allowing a loosening of telescope stability requirements. In doing so, it transfers the difficult technology from the telescope system to a large deployable structure (tens of meters to greater than 100 m in diameter) that must be positioned precisely at a distance of tens of thousands of kilometers from the telescope. We describe in this paper a roadmap to achieving the technological capability to search for biosignatures on an Earth-like exoplanet from a future space telescope. Two of these studies, HabEx and LUVOIR, include the direct imaging of Earth-sized habitable exoplanets as a central science theme.
The inflationary paradigm of the early universe predicts a stochastic background of gravitational waves which would generate a B-mode polarization pattern in the cosmic microwave background (CMB) at degree angular scales. Precise measurement of B-modes is one of the most compelling observational goals in modern cosmology. Since 2011, the Keck Array has deployed over 2500 transition edge sensor (TES) bolometer detectors at 100 and 150 GHz to the South Pole in pursuit of degree-scale B-modes, and Bicep3 will follow in 2015 with 2500 more at 100 GHz. Characterizing the spectral response of these detectors is important for controlling systematic effects that could lead to leakage from the temperature to polarization signal, and for understanding potential coupling to atmospheric and astrophysical emission lines. We present complete spectral characterization of the Keck Array detectors, made with a Martin-Puplett Fourier Transform Spectrometer at the South Pole, and preliminary spectra of Bicep3 detectors taken in lab. We show band centers and effective bandwidths for both Keck Array bands, and use models of the atmosphere at the South Pole to cross check our absolute calibration. Our procedure for obtaining interferograms in the field with automated 4-axis coupling to the focal plane represents an important step towards efficient and complete spectral characterization of next-generation instruments more than 10000 detectors.
Searching for evidence of inflation by measuring B-modes in the cosmic microwave background (CMB) polarization at degree angular scales remains one of the most compelling experimental challenges in cosmology. BICEP2 and the Keck Array are part of a program of experiments at the South Pole whose main goal is to achieve the sensitivity and systematic control necessary for measurements of the tensor-to-scalar ratio at σ(r) ~0:01. Beam imperfections that are not sufficiently accounted for are a potential source of spurious polarization that could interfere with that goal. The strategy of BICEP2 and the Keck Array is to completely characterize their telescopes' polarized beam response with a combination of in-lab, pre-deployment, and on-site calibrations. We Sereport the status of these experiments, focusing on continued improved understanding of their beams. Far-field measurements of the BICEP2 beam with a chopped thermal source, combined with analysis improvements, show that the level of residual beam-induced systematic errors is acceptable for the goal of σ(r) ~ 0:01 measurements. Beam measurements of the Keck Array side lobes helped identify a way to reduce optical loading with interior cold baffles, which we installed in late 2013. These baffles reduced total optical loading, leading to a ~ 10% increase in mapping speed for the 2014 observing season. The sensitivity of the Keck Array continues to improve: for the 2013 season it was 9:5 μK _/s noise equivalent temperature (NET). In 2014 we converted two of the 150-GHz cameras to 100 GHz for foreground separation capability. We have shown that the BICEP2 and the Keck Array telescope technology is sufficient for the goal of σ(r) ~ 0:01 measurements. Furthermore, the program is continuing with BICEP3, a 100-GHz telescope with 2560 detectors.
We present the results of integration and characterization of the Spider instrument after the 2013 pre-flight campaign. Spider is a balloon-borne polarimeter designed to probe the primordial gravitational wave signal in the degree-scale B-mode polarization of the cosmic microwave background. With six independent telescopes housing over 2000 detectors in the 94 GHz and 150 GHz frequency bands, Spider will map 7.5% of the sky with a depth of 11 to 14 μK•arcmin at each frequency, which is a factor of ~5 improvement over Planck. We discuss the integration of the pointing, cryogenic, electronics, and power sub-systems, as well as pre-flight characterization of the detectors and optical systems. Spider is well prepared for a December 2014 flight from Antarctica, and is expected to be limited by astrophysical foreground emission, and not instrumental sensitivity, over the survey region.
We introduce the light-weight carbon fiber and aluminum gondola designed for the Spider balloon-borne telescope. Spider is designed to measure the polarization of the Cosmic Microwave Background radiation with unprecedented sensitivity and control of systematics in search of the imprint of inflation: a period of exponential expansion in the early Universe. The requirements of this balloon-borne instrument put tight constrains on the mass budget of the payload. The Spider gondola is designed to house the experiment and guarantee its operational and structural integrity during its balloon-borne flight, while using less than 10% of the total mass of the payload. We present a construction method for the gondola based on carbon fiber reinforced polymer tubes with aluminum inserts and aluminum multi-tube joints. We describe the validation of the model through Finite Element Analysis and mechanical tests.
We present the technology and control methods developed for the pointing system of the Spider experiment. Spider is a balloon-borne polarimeter designed to detect the imprint of primordial gravitational waves in the polarization of the Cosmic Microwave Background radiation. We describe the two main components of the telescope’s azimuth drive: the reaction wheel and the motorized pivot. A 13 kHz PI control loop runs on a digital signal processor, with feedback from fibre optic rate gyroscopes. This system can control azimuthal speed with < 0.02 deg/s RMS error. To control elevation, Spider uses stepper-motor-driven linear actuators to rotate the cryostat, which houses the optical instruments, relative to the outer frame. With the velocity in each axis controlled in this way, higher-level control loops on the onboard flight computers can implement the pointing and scanning observation modes required for the experiment. We have accomplished the non-trivial task of scanning a 5000 lb payload sinusoidally in azimuth at a peak acceleration of 0.8 deg/s2, and a peak speed of 6 deg/s. We can do so while reliably achieving sub-arcminute pointing control accuracy.
An attitude determination system for balloon-borne experiments is presented. The system provides pointing information in azimuth and elevation for instruments flying on stratospheric balloons over Antarctica. In-flight attitude is given by the real-time combination of readings from star cameras, a magnetometer, sun sensors, GPS, gyroscopes, tilt sensors and an elevation encoder. Post-flight attitude reconstruction is determined from star camera solutions, interpolated by the gyroscopes using an extended Kalman Filter. The multi-sensor system was employed by the Balloon-borne Large Aperture Submillimeter Telescope for Polarimetry (BLASTPol), an experiment that measures polarized thermal emission from interstellar dust clouds. A similar system was designed for the upcoming flight of Spider, a Cosmic Microwave Background polarization experiment. The pointing requirements for these experiments are discussed, as well as the challenges in designing attitude reconstruction systems for high altitude balloon flights. In the 2010 and 2012 BLASTPol flights from McMurdo Station, Antarctica, the system demonstrated an accuracy of < 5’ rms in-flight, and < 5” rms post-flight.
We present the second generation BLASTbus electronics. The primary purposes of this system are detector readout, attitude control, and cryogenic housekeeping, for balloon-borne telescopes. Readout of neutron transmutation doped germanium (NTD-Ge) bolometers requires low noise and parallel acquisition of hundreds of analog signals. Controlling a telescope's attitude requires the capability to interface to a wide variety of sensors and motors, and to use them together in a fast, closed loop. To achieve these different goals, the BLASTbus system employs a flexible motherboard-daughterboard architecture. The programmable motherboard features a digital signal processor (DSP) and field-programmable gate array (FPGA), as well as slots for three daughterboards. The daughterboards provide the interface to the outside world, with versions for analog to digital conversion, and optoisolated digital input/output. With the versatility afforded by this design, the BLASTbus also finds uses in cryogenic, thermometry, and power systems. For accurate timing control to tie everything together, the system operates in a fully synchronous manner. BLASTbus electronics have been successfully deployed to the South Pole, and own on stratospheric balloons.
Spider is a balloon-borne array of six telescopes that will observe the Cosmic Microwave Background. The 2624
antenna-coupled bolometers in the instrument will make a polarization map of the CMB with approximately
one-half degree resolution at 145 GHz. Polarization modulation is achieved via a cryogenic sapphire half-wave
plate (HWP) skyward of the primary optic. We have measured millimeter-wave transmission spectra of the
sapphire at room and cryogenic temperatures. The spectra are consistent with our physical optics model, and
the data gives excellent measurements of the indices of A-cut sapphire. We have also taken preliminary spectra of
the integrated HWP, optical system, and detectors in the prototype Spider receiver. We calculate the variation
in response of the HWP between observing the CMB and foreground spectra, and estimate that it should not
limit the Spider constraints on inflation.
We describe the cryogenic system for SPIDER, a balloon-borne microwave polarimeter that will map 8% of the
sky with degree-scale angular resolution. The system consists of a 1284 L liquid helium cryostat and a 16 L
capillary-filled superfluid helium tank, which provide base operating temperatures of 4 K and 1.5 K, respectively.
Closed-cycle 3He adsorption refrigerators supply sub-Kelvin cooling power to multiple focal planes, which are
housed in monochromatic telescope inserts. The main helium tank is suspended inside the vacuum vessel with
thermally insulating fiberglass flexures, and shielded from thermal radiation by a combination of two vapor
cooled shields and multi-layer insulation. This system allows for an extremely low instrumental background and
a hold time in excess of 25 days. The total mass of the cryogenic system, including cryogens, is approximately
1000 kg. This enables conventional long duration balloon flights. We will discuss the design, thermal analysis,
and qualification of the cryogenic system.
Here we describe the design and performance of the SPIDER instrument. SPIDER is a balloon-borne cosmic
microwave background polarization imager that will map part of the sky at 90, 145, and 280 GHz with subdegree
resolution and high sensitivity. This paper discusses the general design principles of the instrument inserts,
mechanical structures, optics, focal plane architecture, thermal architecture, and magnetic shielding of the TES
sensors and SQUID multiplexer. We also describe the optical, noise, and magnetic shielding performance of the
145 GHz prototype instrument insert.
We present a method of cross-calibrating the polarization angle of a polarimeter using Bicep Galactic observations.
Bicep was a ground based experiment using an array of 49 pairs of polarization sensitive bolometers
observing from the geographic South Pole at 100 and 150 GHz. The Bicep polarimeter is calibrated to ±0.01
in cross-polarization and less than ±0.7° in absolute polarization orientation. Bicep observed the temperature
and polarization of the Galactic plane (R.A = 100° ~ 270° and Dec. = -67° ~ -48°). We show that the
statistical error in the 100 GHz Bicep Galaxy map can constrain the polarization angle offset of Wmap W band
to 0.6° ± 1.4°. The expected 1σ errors on the polarization angle cross-calibration for Planck or EPIC are 1.3°
and 0.3° at 100 and 150 GHz, respectively. We also discuss the expected improvement of the Bicep Galactic
field observations with forthcoming Bicep2 and Keck observations.
We describe SPIDER, a balloon-borne instrument to map the polarization of the millimeter-wave sky with degree
angular resolution. Spider consists of six monochromatic refracting telescopes, each illuminating a focal plane
of large-format antenna-coupled bolometer arrays. A total of 2,624 superconducting transition-edge sensors are
distributed among three observing bands centered at 90, 150, and 280 GHz. A cold half-wave plate at the
aperture of each telescope modulates the polarization of incoming light to control systematics. SPIDER's first
flight will be a 20-30-day Antarctic balloon campaign in December 2011. This flight will map ~8% of the sky to
achieve unprecedented sensitivity to the polarization signature of the gravitational wave background predicted
by inflationary cosmology. The SPIDER mission will also serve as a proving ground for these detector technologies
in preparation for a future satellite mission.
Spider is a balloon-borne experiment that will measure the polarization of the Cosmic Microwave Background
over a large fraction of a sky at ~ 1° resolution. Six monochromatic refracting millimeter-wave telescopes with
large arrays of antenna-coupled transition-edge superconducting bolometers will provide system sensitivities of
4.2 and 3.1 μKcmb√s at 100 and 150 GHz, respectively. A rotating half-wave plate will modulate the polarization
sensitivity of each telescope, controlling systematics. Bolometer arrays operating at 225 GHz and 275 GHz will
allow removal of polarized galactic foregrounds. In a 2-6 day first flight from Alice Springs, Australia in 2010,
Spider will map 50% of the sky to a depth necessary to improve our knowledge of the reionization optical depth
by a large factor.
We describe SPIDER, a novel balloon-borne experiment designed to measure the polarization of the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) on large angular scales. The primary goal of SPIDER is to detect the faint signature of inflationary gravitational waves in the CMB polarization. The payload consists of six telescopes, each operating in a single frequency band and cooled to 4 K by a common LN/LHe cryostat. The primary optic for each telescope is a 25 cm diameter lens cooled to 4 K. Each telescope feeds an array of antenna coupled, polarization sensitive sub-Kelvin bolometers that covers a 20 degree diameter FOV with diffraction limited resolution. The six focal planes span 70 to 300 GHz in a manner optimized to separate polarized galactic emission from CMB polarization, and together contain over 2300 detectors. Polarization modulation is achieved by rotating a cryogenic half-wave plate in front of the primary optic of each telescope. The cryogenic system is designed for 30 days of operation. Observations will be conducted during the night portions of a mid-latitude, long duration balloon flight which will circumnavigate the globe from Australia. By spinning the payload at 1 rpm with the six telescopes fixed in elevation, SPIDER will map approximately half of the sky at each frequency on each night of the flight.