The Remotely-Operated Cold Atom Laboratory

The Cold Atom Laboratory (CAL) is a facility for the study of ultra-cold quantum gases in the microgravity environment of the International Space Station (ISS).


(Artist's concept of a magneto-optical trap and atom chip)

It will enable research in a temperature regime and force free environment that is inaccessible to terrestrial laboratories. In the microgravity environment, up to 20 second long interaction times and as low as 1 picokelvin temperatures are achievable, unlocking the potential to observe new quantum phenomena. The CAL facility is designed for use by multiple scientific investigators and to be upgradable/maintainable on orbit. CAL will also be a pathfinder experiment for future quantum sensors based on laser cooled atoms.

CAL is scheduled to launch in June 2017 on a Pressurized Cargo Vehicle in soft-stowage. After docking with ISS the CAL payload will be installed by astronauts into an EXPRESS (EXpedite the PRocessing of Experiments to Space Station) Rack inside the space station (upper picture). The EXPRESS Rack provides a standardized power, data, thermal, and mechanical interface to scientific payloads. CAL will occupy a quad locker space due to its size and power requirements. Following installation the payload will be operated remotely via sequence control from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (lower picture). The initial mission will have a duration of 12 months with up to five years of extended operation.


(CAL mission overview)

I've loved the idea of a remotely-operated cold lab ever since reading about the idea in James Blish's 1957 novel Cities in Flight, which referred to a teleoperated lab robot; a man operating a construction device came upon an unexpected sight in the depths of Jupiter's atmosphere:

...he realized that the moving thing inside was - of course - a robot; a misshapen, many-tentacled thing about twice the size of a man. It was working busily with bottles and flasks, of which it seemed to have thousands on benches and shelves all around it The whole enclosure was a litter of what Helmuth took to be chemical apparatus, and off to one side was an object which might have been a microscope...

The robot looked up at him and gesticulated with two or three tentacles... There was, of course, no way that he could talk to the robot, nor it to him. If he wanted to, he could talk to the person operating it...

A white light began to wink on the ghost board. That would be the incoming line for Europa. Was somebody on that snowball in charge of this many-tentacled [robot]?

"Hello, Europa... Is this your robot I'm looking at, in sector 94?"

"That's me," the voice said. It was impossible to avoid thinking of it coming from the robot itself. "This is Doc Barth. How do you like my laboratory?"

Via JPL, thanks to Jonathan Jeckell for the Twitter tip on this story.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 3/10/2016)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 0 )

Related News Stories - (" Space Tech ")

Space Drones - UK's Effective Space To Launch Rocket Tugs
'Twenty rocket tugs towed it from its Earth hangar out into space.' - Nat Schachner, 1937.

ELROI Satellite 'License Plate'
Robert Heinlein was thinking about this in 1941.

Bezos Invites You To New Life In Off-World Colonies
'A new life awaits you!'

Build Your Own Space Suit For Cheap
'I'm going to pump the air from this room... so that the interior will be like airless and pressure-less space.'- Otto Willi Gail, 1929.

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

 

Current News

PAL-V Liberty Flying Helicopter Car
'...lifted themselves to skimming flight upon whirling helicopters."

Space Drones - UK's Effective Space To Launch Rocket Tugs
'Twenty rocket tugs towed it from its Earth hangar out into space.'

DIY Autonomous Robot Detects Trash
'The search-bug detached itself and rolled forward.'

Ancient Russian Walking Excavator Would Be Perfect RV
I don't need it to go fast, it just needs to amble along.

ELROI Satellite 'License Plate'
Robert Heinlein was thinking about this in 1941.

When Robots Beg For Their Lives
"Just what do you think you're doing... Dave.'

Do You Still Want A Folding Screen Phone?
'A paper thin polycarbon screen unfurled...'

'Snapchat Dysmorphia' Now A Thing, Say Plastic Surgeons
'The program raced up the screen one scan line at a time, subtly smoothing, deleting and coloring.'

Quiet Electric Cars Law Finalized By US Transportation Department
'... a sound tape to supply the noise'

Drone Assassin Fails To Kill Venezuelan President
'The spotter descends, and we think it searches the vicinity, looking for the victim's face...'

Stick-On Tape Speakers, As Predicted By Bruce Sterling
Flexible tape speakers, someday.

Bezos Invites You To New Life In Off-World Colonies
'A new life awaits you!'

Amazon's Rekognition System Sees Criminals In Congress
'... the imprint of her image on the telephoto cell.'

Build Your Own Space Suit For Cheap
'I'm going to pump the air from this room... so that the interior will be like airless and pressure-less space.'

CIMON Space Sidekick For Weary Astronauts
I welcome our floating robotic assistants.

SRI MicroFactory Of Microrobots Recalls Dick's Autofac
'Microscopic machinery, smaller than ants... constructing something...'

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.