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Sensors 2016, 16(8), 1262; doi:10.3390/s16081262

Design and Fabrication of a Differential Electrostatic Accelerometer for Space-Station Testing of the Equivalence Principle

Department of Precision Instrument, Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084, China
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Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Vittorio M. N. Passaro
Received: 27 June 2016 / Revised: 25 July 2016 / Accepted: 1 August 2016 / Published: 10 August 2016
(This article belongs to the Section Physical Sensors)
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Abstract

The differential electrostatic space accelerometer is an equivalence principle (EP) experiment instrument proposed to operate onboard China’s space station in the 2020s. It is designed to compare the spin-spin interaction between two rotating extended bodies and the Earth to a precision of 10−12, which is five orders of magnitude better than terrestrial experiment results to date. To achieve the targeted test accuracy, the sensitive space accelerometer will use the very soft space environment provided by a quasi-drag-free floating capsule and long-time observation of the free-fall mass motion for integration of the measurements over 20 orbits. In this work, we describe the design and capability of the differential accelerometer to test weak space acceleration. Modeling and simulation results of the electrostatic suspension and electrostatic motor are presented based on attainable space microgravity condition. Noise evaluation shows that the electrostatic actuation and residual non-gravitational acceleration are two major noise sources. The evaluated differential acceleration noise is 1.01 × 10−9 m/s2/Hz1/2 at the NEP signal frequency of 0.182 mHz, by neglecting small acceleration disturbances. The preliminary work on development of the first instrument prototype is introduced for on-ground technological assessments. This development has already confirmed several crucial fabrication processes and measurement techniques and it will open the way to the construction of the final differential space accelerometer. View Full-Text
Keywords: equivalence principle; differential accelerometer; electrostatic suspension; variable-capacitance motor; space station experiment; fundamental physics experiment equivalence principle; differential accelerometer; electrostatic suspension; variable-capacitance motor; space station experiment; fundamental physics experiment
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Han, F.; Liu, T.; Li, L.; Wu, Q. Design and Fabrication of a Differential Electrostatic Accelerometer for Space-Station Testing of the Equivalence Principle. Sensors 2016, 16, 1262.

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