The Space Interferometry Mission, scheduled for launch in 2008, is an optical stellar interferometer with a 10 meter baseline capable of micro-arcsecond accuracy astrometry. A mission-enabling technology development program is underway at JPL, including the design and test of heterodyne interferometer metrology gauges to monitor the separation of optical components of the stellar interferometer. The gauges are required to have a resolution of 15 picometers and to track the motion of mirrors over several meters. We report laboratory progress in meeting these goals.
The Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) has produced a wealth of data on Earth gravity, hydrology, glaciology and climate research. To continue that data after the imminent end of the GRACE mission, a follow-on mission is planned to be launched in 2017, as a joint USGerman project with a smaller Australian contribution. The satellites will be essentially rebuilt as they were for GRACE using microwave ranging as the primary instrument for measuring changes of the intersatellite distance. In addition and in contrast to the original GRACE mission, a Laser Ranging Interferometer (LRI, previously also called ‘Laser Ranging Instrument’) will be included as a technology demonstrator, which will operate together with the microwave ranging and supply a complimentary set of ranging data with lower noise, and new data on the relative alignment between the spacecraft. The LRI aims for a noise level of 80 nm/√Hz over a distance of up to 270km and will be the first intersatellite laser ranging interferometer. It shares many technologies with LISA-like gravitational wave observatories. This paper describes the optical architecture including the mechanisms to handle pointing jitter, the main noise sources and their mitigation, and initial laboratory breadboard experiments at AEI Hannover.
The Disturbance Reduction System (DRS) is a space technology demonstration within NASAs New Millennium Program. DRS is designed to validate system-level technology required for future gravity missions, including the planned LISA gravitational-wave observatory, and for formation-flying interferometers. DRS is based on a freely-floating test mass contained within a spacecraft that shields the test mass from external forces. The spacecraft position will be continuously adjusted to stay centered about the test mass, essentially flying in formation with the test mass. Colloidal microthrusters will be used to control the spacecraft position within a few nanometers, over time scales of tens to thousands of seconds. For testing the level of acceleration noise on the test mass, a second test mass will be used as a reference. The second test mass will also be used as a reference for spacecraft attitude. The spacecraft attitude will be controlled to an accuracy of a few milliarcseconds using the colloidal microthrusters. DRS will consist of an instrument package and a set of microthrusters, which will be attached to the European Space Agencys SMART2 spacecraft with launch scheduled for August 2006.
The Laser-Interferometer-Space-Antenna (LISA) is a space-based interferometer with arm lengths of 5*10 9 m. Its design goal is to measure gravitational waves with a strain sensitivity of 10-23 at 10 mHz. Unlike in earth-based interferometers the arm lengths can differ by up to 2% or 108 m. For that reason frequency noise in the λ ~ 1 μm laser will not cancel in the direct interference signal. A laser locked to a ULE reference cavity in a 1°μK/square root Hz environment will have about 10 Hz/square root Hz frequency noise. The LISA sensitivity goal requires for the laser noise of less than 10-5 Hz/square root Hz, about a factor 10-6 below what has been achieved (1). Cancellation of laser frequency noise can be achieved by time-delayed-interferometry (TDI) (2,3). We describe a laboratory test of TDI with an unequal arm interferometer. The intent is to ascertain the performance limitations and proof-of-concept for 6 orders of magnitude frequency noise suppression.
One of the most critical technology requirements for the Space Interferometry Mission is that the difference in pathlength traveled by the starlight through each arm of the instrument be known with picometers of precision. SIM accomplishes this by using an internal laser metrology system to measure the optical path traveled by the starlight. The SIM technology program has previously demonstrated laser gauges with measurement accuracy below 10 picometers. The next challenge is to integrate one of these gauges into a full interferometer system and demonstrate that the system still operates at the required level. For SIM, the ultimate requirement is that the internal metrology system be able to give an accurate measure of the starlight internal path difference to about 150 picometers over its narrow-angle field, with a goal of 50 picometer accuracy. This accuracy must be maintained even as SIM's various active systems articulate the SIM optics and vary the SIM internal pathlengths.
The Microarcsecond Metrology Testbed (MAM) is a full single-baseline interferometer coupled with a precision pseudostar, intended to demonstrate the level of agreement between starlight and metrology phase measurements needed to make microarcsecond-level measurements of stellar positions. MAM has been under development for several years and is now producing picometers-level consistency that translates into microarcseconds-level performance. This paper will present an overview of the MAM Testbed, together with recent results targeting the 150 picometer performance level required by SIM.
The Micro-Arcsecond Metrology (MAM) team at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory has developed a precision phasemeter for the Space Interferometry Mission (SIM). The current version of the phasemeter is well-suited for picometer accuracy distance measurements and tracks at speeds up to 50 cm/sec, when coupled to SIM's 1.3 micron wavelength heterodyne laser metrology gauges. Since the phasemeter is implemented with industry standard FPGA chips, other accuracy/speed trade-off points can be programmed for applications such as metrology for earth-based long-baseline astronomical interferometry (planet finding), and industrial applications such as translation stage and machine tool positioning. The phasemeter is a standard VME module, supports 6 metrology gauges, a 128 MHz clock, has programmable hardware averaging, and maximum range of 232 cycles (2000 meters at 1.3 microns).