Being part of the QUANTUS project (QUANTen Gase Unter Schwerelosigkeit - Quantum Gases in Weightlessness), the MAIUS (Materiewellen Interferometrie unter Schwerelosigkeit - Matter-Wave Interferometry in Weightlessness) experiment investigates the feasibility of experiments with ultra-cold atoms on sounding rockets.
Experiments with ultra-cold atoms are designed to reduce the temperature of a gas cloud close to absolute zero, thereby producing a Bose-Einstein condensate. This state of matter enables the observation of quantum effects. Of special interest are experiments with this gas cloud in microgravity which enables the observation of a wide range of quantum mechanical effects.
The MAIUS mission is part of the QUANTUS project, consisting of various experiments, all of which study ultra-cold atoms in microgravity. Among others, experiments are conducted in a drop tower with which, for a short period of time, microgravity can be achieved. QUANTUS and MAIUS are coordinated by the DLR space flight management and are supported with financial means by the BMWi (Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy).
The MAIUS mission is in the process of developing and assessing new technologies, in order to perform extended experiments in weightlessness. This includes the miniaturization of vacuum chambers and laser systems required by the experiment. This complex experimental setup is then operated onboard a sounding rocket, which achieves approximately six minutes of microgravity during its flight.
Technology Tasks of the DLR-Institute for Software Technology
DLR's Institute for Software Technology works on behalf of the Leibniz University Hanover and is responsible for the development of the software used to control and monitor the experiment onboard the sounding rocket as well as the continued development of the software used by drop tower experiments.
The hardware used in this experiment is custom-built and requires specialized drivers. In order to support the implementation of these drivers, a domain specific model was developed that describes the interfaces of the hardware components. The drivers are then automatically generated from the model to manage the specialized hardware. This approach increases the quality of the deployed software by avoiding the practice of manually writing the drivers. A manual implementation would have been time consuming and prone to errors.
In conjunction to the model used for the hardware control, a graphical model of the experiment's procedures was also developed. This created an intuitive representation and manipulation of the flow of the experiment's sequences during the entire mission. The use of this model allows the experiment to be operated with a wide degree of autonomy and react to unforeseen circumstances.
The MAIUS-1 mission is the first mission to utilize this software. The software architecture was kept modular and flexible so that modifications required by future missions would be possible with minimal effort. The software is continuously being improved to be used by upcoming rocket missions and drop tower experiments, which are based on similar hardware platforms.
MAIUS-1 successfully launched
On 23.01.2017 MAIUS-1 was successfully launched in Kiruna, Sweden, and produced the first Bose-Einstein condensate in space. During the 6-minute weightlessness, up to 81 experiments could be performed on the Bose-Einstein condensate. Further information about the MAIUS mission can be found in the DLR newsletter Countdown No. 33 (in German).
The follow-up missions MAIUS-2 and MAIUS-3 are scheduled for launch in 2021 and 2023.
Leibniz Universität Hannover
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Center for Applied Space Technology and Microgravity (ZARM)
Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz
Technische Universität Darmstadt
DLR Institute of Space Systems
MAIUS 2013 - 2019
MAIUS-B 2020 - 2023