NASA has chosen Ball Aerospace to design and build a cryostat for its Galactic/Extragalactic Ultralong Duration Balloon (ULDB) Spectroscopic Terahertz Observatory mission, or GUSTO. The mission, led by the University of Arizona, will measure emissions from the interstellar medium, helping scientists to determine the life cycle of interstellar gas in the Milky Way galaxy. Researchers also hope to witness the formation and destruction of star-forming clouds and to understand the dynamics and gas flow near the center of the galaxy.
GUSTO will utilize cutting-edge superconducting detectors, allowing it to make precision measurements of the emission lines from carbon, oxygen and nitrogen in the interstellar medium. Researchers using these measurements will be able to perform the first complete study of all phases of star formation and evolution. Ball’s cryostat will provide a temperature-controlled environment for the detectors and is a critical element in the success and longevity of the GUSTO mission.
“Starting with the Gemini and Apollo missions in the 1960s to the more recent Spitzer Space Telescope, which played a role in the recent discovery of the seven exoplanets in the Trappist-1 system, Ball Aerospace’s cryostats have enabled our customers to successfully meet their mission objectives,” says Jim Oschmann, vice president and general manager of Ball’s civil space business unit. “We are pleased to continue our close working relationship with NASA and the University of Arizona on this important mission to better understand our galaxy.”
NASA also used a Ball cryostat for its Stratospheric Terahertz Observatory (STO), a pathfinder for GUSTO and its scientific objectives. For GUSTO, Ball will redesign the STO cryostat to enable the much longer mission duration while maintaining the detectors at an operating temperature of 4.2 K. GUSTO will launch aboard NASA’s Ultralong Duration Balloon (ULDB) on December 2021 from McMurdo, Antarctica. ULDB will carry the payload to an altitude of approximately 110,000 feet for up to 170 days.
The University of Arizona will lead the overall effort as well as the instrument/telescope development for GUSTO. It is joined by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, which is responsible for the payload gondola and overall project management, and Ball Aerospace, which will design and build the cryogenic system. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Sandia National Laboratories and the Netherlands Institute for Space Research are also responsible for key elements of the detectors.