Cold atom gravimetry for planetary missions

Fabian Müller, Olivier Carraz, Pieter Visser, Olivier Witasse

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Cold Atom Interferometry (CAI) is a promising new technology for gravity missions, enabling measurements with a potential error level that is several orders of magnitude lower compared to classical electro-static accelerometers. Whereas the latter typically suffer from high noise at low frequencies, with biases and scale factor instabilities, cold atom interferometers give an absolute measurement and are highly accurate over the entire frequency range. Especially for planetary missions, drift-free cold atom interferometry can be highly beneficial, because it does not need any on-board calibration. In this work we present the improvement of using a CAI instrument, with respect to classic Doppler-tracking technique, to retrieve the gravity field of Venus and Mars. In order to estimate the performances with many parameters (orbit altitude, mission duration, sensitivity) a scalar scale factor is proposed to fit a simulated CAI instrument on Earth orbit to other celestial bodies. The spherical harmonic degree strength of the gravitational field retrieval is estimated and the results presented here agree with Fast Error Propagation Tools.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105110
Number of pages15
JournalPlanetary and Space Science
Publication statusPublished - 2020

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