The French and German space agencies on Tuesday launched a project to place quantum sensors in orbit with the aim of better measuring changes in Earth's gravity linked in particular to earthquakes and rising ocean levels.
This new technology uses the properties of quantum physics, which governs the world on a very small scale, to measure with extreme precision various acceleration phenomena, such as the movement of the masses that make up the Earth.
The CARIOQA mission, launched by the French space agency CNES and the German space agency DLR, with funding from the European Commission, aims to launch a quantum sensor on board a satellite by 2030.
World premiereAccording to Christine Valette, project manager at the French National Center for Space Studies (CNES).
These highly sensitive tools are only just beginning to be used on the ground, in mining research in particular, but without providing a global view of the Earth.
Hence the interest in staying away from it
To be able to observe and map the entire gravitational fieldL. explainsFrance Press agency Felix Berusanz, scientist responsible for CARIOQA project applications at the French National Center for Space Studies.
The prospects for its use in Earth sciences are eagerly awaitedthis expert confirms, for example, the detection of previous signals of earthquakes by capturing the movement of tectonic plates at depth – a movement that we currently know how to measure only at the surface and then.
We will be able to monitor seismic hazard areas continuously and globallyspecifies Felix Berusanz.
The same applies to volcanoes, by monitoring the movements that announce their eruption.
Other applications: monitoring the movement of water masses with melting ice, heavy rains and floods, as well as more detailed monitoring of sea level rise associated with increasing water mass and expansion caused by global warming.
Future gravity measurements will complement all space missions to monitor climate change.
In the first experimental phase, the quantum sensor, designed by Airbus Defense and Space, will be placed in orbit between 500 and 600 kilometers from Earth. It will work using laser-controlled cold atoms.
Weightlessness will allow a longer measurement period than on Earth (up to five seconds, compared to a tenth of a second), which significantly increases the sensitivity of the sensor, notes Thomas Levick, Head of the Instrumentation Department.
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