Gravity sensing: cold atom trap onboard a 6U CubeSat

Diviya Devani*, Stephen Maddox, Ryan Renshaw, Nigel Cox, Helen Sweeney, Trevor Cross, Michael Holynski, Raffaele Nolli, Jonathan Winch, Kai Bongs, Karen Holland, David Colebrook, Neil Adams, Kevin Quillien, James Buckle, Anupe Karde, Mark Farries, Tom Legg, Richard Webb, Corin GawithSam A. Berry, Lewis Carpenter

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


“Cold atoms” can be used as ultra-sensitive sensors for measuring accelerations and are capable of mapping changes in the strength of gravity across the surface of the Earth. They could offer significant benefits to existing space based gravity sensing capabilities. Gravity sensors in space are already used for many Earth observation applications including monitoring polar ice mass, ocean currents and sea level. Cold atom sensors could enable higher resolution measurements which would allow monitoring of smaller water sources and discovery of new underground natural resources which are currently undetectable. The adoption of cold atom technology is constrained by low technology readiness level (TRL). Teledyne e2v and its partners are addressing this maturity gap through project Cold Atom Space PAyload (CASPA) which is an Innovate UK and Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) funded project, involving the University of Birmingham as science lead, XCAM, Clyde Space, Covesion, Gooch & Housego, and the University of Southampton. Through the CASPA project the consortium have built and vibration tested a 6U (approximate dimensions: 100 × 200 × 300 mm) cube Satellite (CubeSat) that is capable of laser cooling atoms down to 100’s of micro kelvin, as a pre-cursor to gravity sensors for future Earth observation missions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)539-549
Number of pages11
JournalCEAS Space Journal
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Innovate UK and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council for the support and funding on the Cold Atom Space PAyload project.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, The Author(s).


  • Cold atom interferometry
  • Cube satellite
  • Gravity sensing
  • Quantum payload

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Space and Planetary Science


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