Drift Mode Accelerometry for Spaceborne Gravity Measurements

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
John W. Conklin, Ryan Shelley, Andrew Chilton, Taiwo Olatunde, Giacomo Ciani and Guido Mueller, University of Florida, Ft Walton Beach, FL, United States
A drift mode accelerometer is a precision instrument for spacecraft that overcomes much of the acceleration noise and readout dynamic range limitations of traditional electrostatic accelerometers. It has the potential of achieving acceleration noise performance similar to that of drag-free systems over a restricted frequency band without the need for external drag-free control or continuous spacecraft propulsion. Like traditional accelerometers, the drift mode accelerometer contains a high-density test mass surrounded by an electrode housing, which can control and sense all six degrees of freedom of the test mass. Unlike traditional accelerometers, the suspension system is operated with a low duty cycle so that the limiting suspension force noise only acts over brief, known time intervals, which can be accounted for in the data analysis. The readout is performed using a laser interferometer which is immune to the dynamic range limitations of even the best voltage references typically used to determine the inertial acceleration of electrostatic accelerometers. This presentation describes operation and performance modeling for such a device with respect to a low Earth orbiting satellite geodesy mission. Methods for testing the drift mode accelerometer with the University of Florida precision torsion pendulum will also be discussed.