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National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Small Business Innovation Research 1997 Program Solicitation

 

TOPIC 17 Detecting Gravitational Waves, EM Radiation, and Cosmic Rays

17.01 Systems for Analyzing Photon and Cosmic Ray Emanations from Astrophysical Phenomena (>10eV)

17.02 Systems for Analyzing Photon and Graviton Emanations from Astrophysical Phenomena (<0.1eV)


The technical requirements to support the Structure and Evolution of the Universe (SEU) science theme's missions are extremely diverse, which is a consequence of the wide-ranging nature of the investigations. For example, understanding the physical structure of relativistic jets from black hole sources requires imaging them using very long baseline interferometric techniques at radio frequencies, while understanding their global energetics requires measuring their spectra in the x-ray and gamma-ray bands. Technology developments are sought in this topic in the systems context from energy detection through data reduction and scientific visualization needed to implement SEU missions. Specific component development is addressed under other subtopics (e.g., the sensors, are addressed in subtopics in the Instrument and Sensing topic under Crosscutting).


17.01 Systems for Analyzing Photon and Cosmic Ray Emanations from Astrophysical Phenomena (>10eV)

Lead Center: GSFC

(NOTE: Requirements for specific sensor component innovations can be found in the subtopic 23.02 "High Energy Sensors.")

Innovative methods and techniques are sought for integrating components and equipment into sub-systems/systems:

Gamma Ray and Cosmic Ray Detection Sub-Systems:

For gamma-ray (E>100 keV) and cosmic-ray experiments, focusing optics are not feasible, but imaging is still possible using coded aperture techniques at the lowest energies, and by measuring the tracks of fast moving particles produced at the interaction site at higher energies. System requirements include high quantum efficiency, fine spatial resolution, good energy resolution, and ability to scale to large area and/or detection volume. Development of systems required for detecting and analyzing photon and cosmic ray emissions from astrophysical phenomena (>10eV) using technologies or innovative approaches which provide similar and/or can perform the function to examples below:

  • Tracking and imaging detection systems currently including intrinsic Ge, Si, Liquid and high-pressure noble gas detectors and Cadmium-Zinc-Telluride (CdZnTe) detectors.
  • Cascade shower detectors to detect three dimensional development of the electromagnetic cascade shower induced by a high energy gamma ray.
  • Application specific integrated circuits requiring modern imaging and tracking systems of large channel counts (~106 channels). For space based applications the requirements of low power, low noise, radiation hardness and mixed analog and digital functions are the technology drivers.

UV and x-ray Detection Systems:

In the ultraviolet and x-ray bands, experiments may incorporate focusing reflective optics with photon-counting detector sub-systems. Larger collecting area gives improved sensitivity to weak sources. High angular resolution also improves sensitivity through reduction of background. Moderate resolution, high throughput x-ray optics (e.g., conical foil mirrors) enable both imaging and dispersive spectroscopic investigations. The greatest challenge is that reflectivity of all surfaces decreases substantially with increasing photon energy. At energies above ~ 20 eV, appreciable reflectivity can only be achieved at grazing incidence. Development of systems using technologies or innovative approaches, methods and/or techniques which provide similar and/or can perform the function to examples below:

  • Cryogenic x-ray detection sub-systems technologies including microcalorimeter arrays and tunnel junction arrays integrated with cryocoolers and electronics.
  • Warm detection sub-systems technologies including charge coupled devices and improved micro-channel plate detectors.
  • Large, lightweight optics sub-systems technologies including replicated thin shells, conical foil mirrors, spherical optics, and variable line density diffraction gratings, capillary optics, innovative imaging techniques, multi-layer coatings.

Other supporting technologies:

  • Lightweight inflatable structures and deployable structures: These will enable future SEU missions which require instruments with substantially larger aperture sizes and focal lengths than those typical of current instruments and that are able to be launched in smaller (and cheaper) launch vehicles.
  • Passive Cooling Technology for submillimeter emissions: It is necessary to cool the reflector/antenna to temperatures in the 40K - 150K range. Development is needed in lightweight sunshades and advanced high efficiency radiators.
  • Cryocoolers instruments used in astrophysics over a broad spectral range must be cooled to cryogenic temperatures for maximum sensitivity. Stored cryogens, used in space missions have several drawbacks including limited lifetime, high cost, difficult integration and test and launch operations, and lack of flexibility due to difficulty in achieving low temperatures at many widely separated points.

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17.02 Systems for Analyzing Photon and Graviton Emanations from Astrophysical Phenomena (<0.1eV)

Lead Center: JPL

(NOTE: Requirements for specific sensor component innovations can be found in the subtopic 23.03 "Microwave, Millimeter and Submillimeter Sensing Technology.")

Innovative methods and techniques are sought for integrating components and equipment into sub-systems/systems:

Radio, Submillimeter and Far Infrared Sub-System Technologies:

The radio/submillimeter band covers the wavelength range from kilometers to 100 m. Technologies include the following:

  • Ultra-low-noise accelerometers: used to enable the detection of fine distortions in space-time due to the arrival of a gravitational wave and have a sensitivity requirement of <1e-15 g/sqrt(Hz).
  • Micro-Newton thrusters: required to cancel out the solar radiation force on the spacecraft, correct for fluctuations in that force, and control spacecraft attitude.
  • Separated spacecraft interferometers: determine changes in the distance between test masses in different spacecraft separated by ~ 107 km.

Other support technologies:

  • Lightweight Inflatable structures and deployable structures: will enable future SEU missions, which require instruments with substantially larger aperture sizes and focal lengths than those typical of current instruments that are able to be launched in smaller (and cheaper) launch vehicles.
  • Passive Cooling Technology: For submillimeter emissions, it is necessary to cool the reflector/antenna to temperatures in the 40K - 150K range. Development is needed in lightweight sunshades and advanced high efficiency radiators.
  • Cryocoolers: Instruments used in astrophysics over a broad spectral range must be cooled to cryogenic temperatures for maximum sensitivity. Stored cryogens, used in space missions have several drawbacks including limited lifetime, high cost, difficult integration and test and launch operations, and lack of flexibility due to difficulty in achieving low temperatures at many widely separated points.

 

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