Jul 22 – 23, 2019
Europe/Zurich timezone


Expression of Interest in the forthcoming Community Workshop for Cold Atom Technology in Space

Contact info

Registering your contact details here will ensure that you will be kept informed about the planning of a Community Workshop for Cold Atom Technology in Space.

Further information about this forthcoming event are listed below:

After more than two years in the making, the final recommendations of the Voyage2050 Senior Committee are public now:


The recommendations include explicitly in Section 4.1 a proposal to establish a Cold Atom development programme for space (see also below for details) and to consult with the interested communities on how to establish it.

We believe that this is a very encouraging development for CAT in Space and believe that a proactive response of the relevant communities towards ESA would be important to unlock the full potential of this development programme and to guide it into the directions the communities deem most relevant.

With this in mind, we are planning two immediate actions to help coordinate the response of the CAT and related communities to the Voyage 2050 recommendation for a CAT development programme in space:

i) A community letter to ESA’s Director of Science, Guenther Hasinger;

ii) A community workshop in September to agree on a community roadmap for the development programme, which would provide input to ESA on how to structure it and what priorities could be established.

The community letter to Hasinger is supposed to raise awareness in ESA that the community is prepared to organise itself and to work actively with ESA as it shapes a roadmap for the CAT in Space development programme.

The letter signed by 47 representatives of Voyage 2050 White papers can be viewed on Google Drive via this link:


The letter was also co-signed by almost 200 people of the wider community interested in the development, application, and science exploitation of CAT in Space:


Regarding the workshop to organise the community and to start establishing a community roadmap for the CAT in Space development programme, by registering your contact details here you will be kept informed about the planning of the workshop.

Extract from the Voyage 2050 Recommendations regarding CAT in Space

4.1 Cold Atom Interferometry

4.1.1 A Development Programme for European Cold Atoms in Space

Europe has considerable strengths in cold atom science and funded terrestrial programmes are already running in Germany, France, Italy and the UK. These programmes aim at both fundamental science and terrestrial applications but do not target space applications. Nevertheless, these programmes aim to reduce the size, mass and power requirements, developments which also facilitate use in space. Two requirements must be met to enable cold atom technology to be realistically considered for space science missions: (1) the technology must already be at Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 5 or 6 (see Definitions of Technology Readiness Level), and (2) the demonstrated performance must be superior to that of classical technologies. Since the performance of cold atom technologies in atomic clocks vastly exceeds classical techniques it is reasonable to start with a space qualification programme for an atomic clock, a programme that will also qualify 60-70% of the subsystems needed for atom interferometry when that technique demonstrates its competitiveness. A possible programme is outlined below.

  1. The programme should choose an atomic species at the outset and strontium is recommended here. This is despite European expertise using rubidium because many of the current ground-based projects (AION, MAGIS) use strontium and so their technical developments and lessons learnt, will allow on-ground tests of performance, meeting one of the serious requirements outlined above.

  2. It is proposed to base the programme on the development of an atomic clock for eventual flight either on a free flying satellite, or on the ISS, with science goals similar to STE-QUEST. The objective would be to develop all subsystems to a level of TRL 6 before a choice on flight profile is made. Close coordination with any relevant programmes in the Directorate of Technology, Engineering and Quality or the Directorate of Human and Robotic Exploration would be mandatory but the science aims should remain under the authority of the Science Directorate.

  3. The programme could follow a logical pattern: definition of science requirements, system design of payload and platform to meet science requirements, audit of subsystem technology readiness, space qualification of lowest TRL subsystems, identification and evaluation of subsystem suppliers, project review of updated technical readiness, review of flight opportunities (ISS , Free flyer-Small, Fast, or Medium mission), and response to Science Directorate Call for Proposals. During all these stages, keeping track of the evolving performance of ground-based experiments would be required.

  4. This programme would only require a modest investment to start with, growing as the various targets are delivered and confidence in the performance increases.

4.1.2 Potential Science Outcomes

A successful programme following principles similar to those outlined above might deliver: gravitational wave detectors in new wavebands and potentially with fewer space components, detectors for dark matter candidates, sensitive clock tests of general relativity, tests of wave function collapse in quantum mechanics, better definition of some planetary interiors, and new navigation and attitude control systems for Solar System exploration.