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Mission Overview

CAL will be a facility for the study of ultra-cold quantum gases in the microgravity environment of the International Space Station (ISS). It will enable research in a temperature regime and force free environment that is inaccessible to terrestrial laboratories. In the microgravity environment, observation times over 10 seconds and temperatures below 100 pK are achievable, unlocking the potential to observe new quantum phenomena. The CAL facility is designed for use by multiple scientific investigators and to be upgradable/maintainable on orbit. CAL will also be a pathfinder experiment for future quantum sensors based on laser cooled atoms enabling exquisitely precise measurements of a wide variety of phenomenon.

CAL in Express Rack(front panels removed for clarity)

CAL is scheduled to launch in May 2018 on a Pressurized Cargo Vehicle in soft-stowage. After docking with ISS the CAL payload will be installed by astronauts into an EXPRESS (EXpedite the PRocessing of Experiments to Space Station) Rack inside the space station (pictured above). The EXPRESS Rack provides a standardized power, data, thermal, and mechanical interface to scientific payloads. CAL will occupy a quad locker space due to its size and power requirements. Following installation the payload will be operated remotely via sequence control from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (pictured below). The initial mission will have a duration of 12 months with up to five years of extended operation.

Pressurized Cargo Vehicle

A NASA Research Announcement was released on July 11, 2013 to solicit proposals from academic and research institutions to utilize the CAL facility.

Science Mission Objectives

The CAL science mission objectives are derived from the microgravity decadal survey. CAL utilizes the microgravity environment of the International Space Station (ISS) to form, create, and study ultra-cold quantum gases. CAL will be a technology and science pathfinder mission for future experiments involving cold atoms, while at the same time enabling a world-class group of scientists to perform investigations in a unique environment.

CAL Mission architecture

As CAL is a multi-used facility, it will allow the scientific community to propose experiments using the instrument with the following over-arching capabilities:

How CAL will be installed in the pressurized cargo vehicle
  • Study dual species degenerate gases, both Bose-Bose and Bose-Fermi in microgravity.
  • Study Rubidium-87 and two potassium isotope, K39, and K41, and interactions between mixtures with residual kinetic energy below 100 pK with free expansion times greater than 5 seconds.
  • Study the properties of quantum gases in the presence of external magnetic fields tuned near interspecies or single-species Feshbach resonances.
  • Demonstrate atom interferometry with a Bragg beam.
  • Demonstration of Delta-Kick Cooling and Evaporative Cooling in a space environment.