Fibertek Awarded Contract to Develop Satellite-Based Charge Management System for ESA/NASA LISA Gravitational Wave Observatory

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Fibertek was awarded a four-year contract with the University of Florida to support NASA’s Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) Charge Management Device (CMD) program. Under this contract Fibertek will continue our partnership with the University of Florida in designing and testing CMD spaceflight Technology Readiness Level 6 (TRL-6) and engineering development units.

“This program is a unique university–industry partnership. It combines University of Florida expertise in gravity measurement physics with Fibertek’s optical space hardware capability to deliver NASA new CMD capability for LISA," said Mark Storm, director of NASA programs at Fibertek

Fibertek was awarded a four-year contract with the University of Florida to support NASA’s Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) Charge Management Device (CMD) program. Under this contract Fibertek will continue our partnership with the University of Florida in designing and testing CMD spaceflight Technology Readiness Level 6 (TRL-6) and engineering development units.

LISA is an international project led by the European Space Agency (ESA) to develop and launch a space-based gravitational wave detector. The detector consists of three satellites spaced 2.5 million kilometers apart in an equilateral triangle in an Earth-trailing orbit. The goal is to search for gravitational wave signatures that come from distortions of space-time produced by distant astronomical events such as the merging of massive black holes.

LISA is a space interferometer that measures gravitational waves by sensing minuscule changes in the path length between mirrors. As a gravitational wave passes, it effectively changes the distance between the mirrors with a characteristic signature. The laser interferometer mirrors must float freely within the spacecraft to measure the gravitational wave induced changes in the path length between the interferometer mirrors. The CMD manages the static charge buildup on the laser mirrors due to cosmic radiation and prevents the mirrors from contacting the spacecraft.

“This program is a unique university–industry partnership. It combines University of Florida expertise in gravity measurement physics with Fibertek’s optical space hardware capability to deliver NASA new CMD capability for LISA,” said Mark Storm, director of NASA programs at Fibertek. “The University of Florida has done a fantastic job developing the CMD concept and prototype units. We look forward to evolving this design with the university into LISA spaceflight units.”

The Charge Management Device is a crucial subsystem that consists of an array of ultraviolet LEDs that are coupled to the surfaces of the free-floating mass using fiberoptic cables. The ultraviolet light is used to discharge the masses and precisely control the static electric fields. In addition to the LEDs, the CMD includes electronics to power the LEDs in a variety of operating modes, monitor performance, and communicate with the main satellite controller.

Fibertek looks forward to continuing our working relationship with the University of Florida and the NASA LISA team.

About Fibertek
Fibertek is an aerospace company located in Herndon, Virginia. The company specializes in high-reliability, long-duration space-based lidar, laser, and detector technology and space laser communications systems. Fibertek has a long history of developing space hardware for NASA programs, including NASA CALIPSO, NASA ICESat-2, and NASA CATS, as well as DoD space missions. Fibertek also provides unique, customized high TRL, high power laser and electro-optical systems across the spectrum (visible, 1um, 1.5 um and 2 um) for ground, air, ship and space DoD missions. The company provides space laser communication terminals with precision pointing and tracking for LEO/GEO and beyond. Fibertek is also working with NASA GSFC on LISA long lifetime space Yb-fiber space amplifiers.

About LISA at University of Florida
The CMD team at the University of Florida (UF) is led by Principal Investigator John W. Conklin, Ph.D., at the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (MAE) in UF’s Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering, and Program Manager Peter Wass, Ph.D., also at MAE. Dr. Conklin’s group has also developed CHOMPTT, a satellite demonstrating precision laser based pico-second time transfer, and is a collaborator in the Cubesat Laser Infrared CrosslinK (CLICK) missions.

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John McKechnie