January 16, 2024

European CARIOQA project kicks off A quantum-sensing revolution in the making

16 January, the CARIOQA project partners—CNES, German Aerospace Center (DLR), the European Commission, Airbus Defence & Space, GMV and FORTH/PRAXI—came together to officially kick off phase A of the project. This marks a key milestone in the development of this technology demonstration mission to space-rate a quantum sensor capable of measuring accelerations using cold atoms. Such atomic accelerators carry high stakes for Europe, France and Germany are key players in this field.

To be ready to deploy a future European operational space-based capability, space-rated quantum accelerometers must first be tested, a colossal challenge given the exacting performance requirements of space applications. To this end, the CARIOQA mission aims to fly and test the first atomic accelerometer on a satellite by 2030. The mission will thus raise the technology readiness levels of such instruments by validating the key building blocks needed to make them work. It will also demonstrate the performance of these instruments in flight.

This new technology holds huge potential for measuring Earth’s gravity field and monitoring the water cycle or seismic risks, for example. Future space geodesy missions will benefit from it to advance scientific knowledge in hydrology, oceanography and glaciology, delivering deeper insights into the water cycle and Earth’s interior structure. Ultimately, such applications will help to manage resources sustainably, as well as mitigating natural disasters through a closer understanding of climate change. CARIOQA will also enhance future applications in fundamental physics research, notably through the ability to test the weak equivalence principle.

Developed with a strong contribution from the European Commission through its Horizon Europe programme, CARIOQA is planting the seeds of a future French, German and European industry with technology spin-off leveraging French and German excellence in quantum sensors.