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25 Oct


QubeSat: An Investigation in Quantum Sensors for CubeSats

The primary goal of our 2U Quantum CubeSat is to test and qualify a quantum gyroscope developed by researchers at UC Berkeley in the conditions of low earth orbit. This gyroscope is an application of Nitrogen-Vacancy (NV–) centers in diamond, which is a very active and interesting area of physics research. The benefits of this sensor over traditional options is that it can be made very small while still being accurate, which is perfectly suited for a CubeSat and spacecraft in general. This CubeSat will act as a proof-of-concept experiment to demonstrate the functionality of NV– Center gyroscope technology in space.

Figure 1: Quantum Gyroscrope

The Place for CubeSats in the Second Quantum Revolution

This project is well aligned to the Second Quantum Revolution, a recent scientific phenomenon whereby quantum effects are utilized in technology to achieve better sensitivity and lifetime. CubeSats offer a perfect platform to inexpensively test new technologies such as quantum gyroscopes, because industry cannot risk the success of a full scale, multi-million dollar payload being contingent on a brand new sensor technology. The result of this project could prompt future launches to test the technology further and qualify it for consistent use in space, which could be a major step forward in the technological development of small satellites.

Looking Ahead

Our work on this CubeSat can be applied to future CubeSats launched by STAC or by other students and researchers, as CubeSats have become a common university level project in recent years. However, Berkeley remains one of a few prestigious universities without an established CubeSat program. We hope to facilitate the development of future CubeSats by creating a DeCal, which is a student organized class on the Berkeley campus, that will teach the basics of developing a CubeSat based on our experiences in this project. Additionally, STAC has already created a ground station at the top of Cory Hall which can be used by the Berkeley community for communicating with satellites. Part of the CubeSat project will be making sure that the user interface for the ground station is accessible to the whole Berkeley community.