BFORE is a high-altitude ultra-long-duration balloon mission to map the cosmic microwave background (CMB). During a 28-day mid-latitude ight launched from Wanaka, New Zealand, the instrument will map half the sky to improve measurements of the optical depth to reionization tau. This will break parameter degeneracies needed to detect neutrino mass. BFORE will also hunt for the gravitational wave B-mode signal, and map Galactic dust foregrounds. The mission will be the first near-space use of TES/mSQUID multichroic detectors (150/217 GHz and 280/353 GHz bands) with low-power readout electronics.
We describe 280 GHz bolometric detector arrays that instrument the balloon-borne polarimeter spider. A primary science goal of spider is to measure the large-scale B-mode polarization of the cosmic microwave background (cmb) in search of the cosmic-inflation, gravitational-wave signature. 280 GHz channels aid this science goal by constraining the level of B-mode contamination from galactic dust emission. We present the focal plane unit design, which consists of a 16x16 array of conical, corrugated feedhorns coupled to a monolithic detector array fabricated on a 150 mm diameter silicon wafer. Detector arrays are capable of polarimetric sensing via waveguide probe-coupling to a multiplexed array of transition-edge-sensor (TES) bolometers. The spider receiver has three focal plane units at 280 GHz, which in total contains 765 spatial pixels and 1,530 polarization sensitive bolometers. By fabrication and measurement of single feedhorns, we demonstrate 14.7° FHWM Gaussian-shaped beams with <1% ellipticity in a 30% fractional bandwidth centered at 280 GHz. We present electromagnetic simulations of the detection circuit, which show 94% band-averaged, single-polarization coupling efficiency, 3% reflection and 3% radiative loss. Lastly, we demonstrate a low thermal conductance bolometer, which is well-described by a simple TES model and exhibits an electrical noise equivalent power (NEP) = 2.6 x 10-17 W/√Hz, consistent with the phonon noise prediction.
We present the results of integration and characterization of the Spider instrument after the 2013 pre-flight campaign. Spider is a balloon-borne polarimeter designed to probe the primordial gravitational wave signal in the degree-scale B-mode polarization of the cosmic microwave background. With six independent telescopes housing over 2000 detectors in the 94 GHz and 150 GHz frequency bands, Spider will map 7.5% of the sky with a depth of 11 to 14 μK•arcmin at each frequency, which is a factor of ~5 improvement over Planck. We discuss the integration of the pointing, cryogenic, electronics, and power sub-systems, as well as pre-flight characterization of the detectors and optical systems. Spider is well prepared for a December 2014 flight from Antarctica, and is expected to be limited by astrophysical foreground emission, and not instrumental sensitivity, over the survey region.
We present the technology and control methods developed for the pointing system of the Spider experiment. Spider is a balloon-borne polarimeter designed to detect the imprint of primordial gravitational waves in the polarization of the Cosmic Microwave Background radiation. We describe the two main components of the telescope’s azimuth drive: the reaction wheel and the motorized pivot. A 13 kHz PI control loop runs on a digital signal processor, with feedback from fibre optic rate gyroscopes. This system can control azimuthal speed with < 0.02 deg/s RMS error. To control elevation, Spider uses stepper-motor-driven linear actuators to rotate the cryostat, which houses the optical instruments, relative to the outer frame. With the velocity in each axis controlled in this way, higher-level control loops on the onboard flight computers can implement the pointing and scanning observation modes required for the experiment. We have accomplished the non-trivial task of scanning a 5000 lb payload sinusoidally in azimuth at a peak acceleration of 0.8 deg/s2, and a peak speed of 6 deg/s. We can do so while reliably achieving sub-arcminute pointing control accuracy.
We introduce the light-weight carbon fiber and aluminum gondola designed for the Spider balloon-borne telescope. Spider is designed to measure the polarization of the Cosmic Microwave Background radiation with unprecedented sensitivity and control of systematics in search of the imprint of inflation: a period of exponential expansion in the early Universe. The requirements of this balloon-borne instrument put tight constrains on the mass budget of the payload. The Spider gondola is designed to house the experiment and guarantee its operational and structural integrity during its balloon-borne flight, while using less than 10% of the total mass of the payload. We present a construction method for the gondola based on carbon fiber reinforced polymer tubes with aluminum inserts and aluminum multi-tube joints. We describe the validation of the model through Finite Element Analysis and mechanical tests.
We present the second generation BLASTbus electronics. The primary purposes of this system are detector readout, attitude control, and cryogenic housekeeping, for balloon-borne telescopes. Readout of neutron transmutation doped germanium (NTD-Ge) bolometers requires low noise and parallel acquisition of hundreds of analog signals. Controlling a telescope's attitude requires the capability to interface to a wide variety of sensors and motors, and to use them together in a fast, closed loop. To achieve these different goals, the BLASTbus system employs a flexible motherboard-daughterboard architecture. The programmable motherboard features a digital signal processor (DSP) and field-programmable gate array (FPGA), as well as slots for three daughterboards. The daughterboards provide the interface to the outside world, with versions for analog to digital conversion, and optoisolated digital input/output. With the versatility afforded by this design, the BLASTbus also finds uses in cryogenic, thermometry, and power systems. For accurate timing control to tie everything together, the system operates in a fully synchronous manner. BLASTbus electronics have been successfully deployed to the South Pole, and own on stratospheric balloons.
An attitude determination system for balloon-borne experiments is presented. The system provides pointing information in azimuth and elevation for instruments flying on stratospheric balloons over Antarctica. In-flight attitude is given by the real-time combination of readings from star cameras, a magnetometer, sun sensors, GPS, gyroscopes, tilt sensors and an elevation encoder. Post-flight attitude reconstruction is determined from star camera solutions, interpolated by the gyroscopes using an extended Kalman Filter. The multi-sensor system was employed by the Balloon-borne Large Aperture Submillimeter Telescope for Polarimetry (BLASTPol), an experiment that measures polarized thermal emission from interstellar dust clouds. A similar system was designed for the upcoming flight of Spider, a Cosmic Microwave Background polarization experiment. The pointing requirements for these experiments are discussed, as well as the challenges in designing attitude reconstruction systems for high altitude balloon flights. In the 2010 and 2012 BLASTPol flights from McMurdo Station, Antarctica, the system demonstrated an accuracy of < 5’ rms in-flight, and < 5” rms post-flight.
The SPTpol camera is a dichroic polarimetric receiver at 90 and 150 GHz. Deployed in January 2012 on the South Pole Telescope (SPT), SPTpol is looking for faint polarization signals in the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB). The camera consists of 180 individual Transition Edge Sensor (TES) polarimeters at 90 GHz and seven 84-polarimeter camera modules (a total of 588 polarimeters) at 150 GHz. We present the design, dark characterization, and in-lab optical properties of the 150 GHz camera modules. The modules consist of photolithographed arrays of TES polarimeters coupled to silicon platelet arrays of corrugated feedhorns, both of which are fabricated at NIST-Boulder. In addition to mounting hardware and RF shielding, each module also contains a set of passive readout electronics for digital frequency-domain multiplexing. A single module, therefore, is fully functional as a miniature focal plane and can be tested independently. Across the modules tested before deployment, the detectors average a critical temperature of 478 mK, normal resistance RN of 1.2Ω , unloaded saturation power of 22.5 pW, (detector-only) optical efficiency of ~ 90%, and have electrothermal time constants < 1 ms in transition.
The SPTpol camera is a two-color, polarization-sensitive bolometer receiver, and was installed on the 10 meter South Pole Telescope in January 2012. SPTpol is designed to study the faint polarization signals in the Cosmic Microwave Background, with two primary scientific goals. One is to constrain the tensor-to-scalar ratio of perturbations in the primordial plasma, and thus constrain the space of permissible in inflationary models. The other is to measure the weak lensing effect of large-scale structure on CMB polarization, which can be used to constrain the sum of neutrino masses as well as other growth-related parameters. The SPTpol focal plane consists of seven 84-element monolithic arrays of 150 GHz pixels (588 total) and 180 individual 90 GHz single- pixel modules. In this paper we present the design and characterization of the 90 GHz modules.
We present the software system used to control and operate the South Pole Telescope. The South Pole Telescope is
a 10-meter millimeter-wavelength telescope designed to measure anisotropies in the cosmic microwave background
(CMB) at arcminute angular resolution. In the austral summer of 2011/12, the SPT was equipped with a new
polarization-sensitive camera, which consists of 1536 transition-edge sensor bolometers. The bolometers are read
out using 36 independent digital frequency multiplexing (DfMux) readout boards, each with its own embedded
processors. These autonomous boards control and read out data from the focal plane with on-board software
and firmware. An overall control software system running on a separate control computer controls the DfMux
boards, the cryostat and all other aspects of telescope operation. This control software collects and monitors
data in real-time, and stores the data to disk for transfer to the United States for analysis.
In January 2012, the 10m South Pole Telescope (SPT) was equipped with a polarization-sensitive camera, SPTpol, in order to measure the polarization anisotropy of the cosmic microwave background (CMB). Measurements of the polarization of the CMB at small angular scales (~several arcminutes) can detect the gravitational lensing of the CMB by large scale structure and constrain the sum of the neutrino masses. At large angular scales (~few degrees) CMB measurements can constrain the energy scale of Inflation. SPTpol is a two-color mm-wave camera that consists of 180 polarimeters at 90 GHz and 588 polarimeters at 150 GHz, with each polarimeter consisting of a dual transition edge sensor (TES) bolometers. The full complement of 150 GHz detectors consists of 7 arrays of 84 ortho-mode transducers (OMTs) that are stripline coupled to two TES detectors per OMT, developed by the TRUCE collaboration and fabricated at NIST. Each 90 GHz pixel consists of two antenna-coupled absorbers coupled to two TES detectors, developed with Argonne National Labs. The 1536 total detectors are read out with digital frequency-domain multiplexing (DfMUX). The SPTpol deployment represents the first on-sky tests of both of these detector technologies, and is one of the first deployed instruments using DfMUX readout technology. We present the details of the design, commissioning, deployment, on-sky optical characterization and detector performance of the complete SPTpol focal plane.