Northrop Grumman cryocooler improves data collection in future astrophysics missions

REDONDO BEACH, Calif., 4 Feb. 2009. Engineers at Northrop Grumman Corp. Space Technology segment in Redondo Beach, Calif., (formerly TRW), developed cryocooler technology to improve data collection in astrophysics missions such as the International X-ray Observatory (IXO).

REDONDO BEACH, Calif., 4 Feb. 2009. Engineers at Northrop Grumman Corp. Space Technology segment in Redondo Beach, Calif., (formerly TRW), developed cryocooler technology to improve data collection in astrophysics missions such as the International X-ray Observatory (IXO).

Cryocoolers are used to reduce thermal noise in space-borne sensors. A hybrid pulse tube Joule-Thomson cryocooler provides cooling to 4.4 Kelvin.

"This achievement is significant for future space science programs because it enables advanced sensors to collect data at wavelengths and with higher accuracy, extending the range of scientific opportunities," says Mark Folkman, director of sensors and phenomenology for Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems sector. "Cooling sensors to this level reduces thermal noise in the detectors and associated electronics, allowing the sensors to operate with more sensitivity and efficiency."

Northrop Grumman's cryocooler consists of a 3-stage pulse tube cooler that used high-pressure helium gas. This multi-stage approach enables efficient cooling of optics and system components and also makes it possible for another cooling element of the hardware to operate between 4 K and low 50mK temperatures.

Cooling to low cryogenic temperatures enables x-ray, infrared, microwave and gamma ray sensors to provide more and better astronomical data.

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