Space Physics Lab

Space Physics Lab

The Space Physics group in the Department of Astrophysical Sciences at Princeton University carries out a broad range of research spanning from the Sun and solar corona, through the solar wind and terrestrial and planetary magnetospheres, and encompassing the global heliosphere and its interaction with the local interstellar medium. Prof. David J. McComas is the Principle Investigator for numerous NASA Heliophysics missions and instruments, making Princeton the lead institution for these programs.

The New Space Physics Lab at 171 Broadmead is being set up to develop instruments for IMAP and other future NASA missions.  Space flight instruments will be mounted in the large chamber with various species of ions and neutral with energies from ~0.5 -30 keV produced in a source at the far end of the beamline.  Below are a few photos documenting the progress on the development of our lab.

Lab Updates


Turbo pump and Ion Source

Ion Source

19 November 2020: Both cryopumps have been running on the main chamber for several weeks and the pressure is <5x10-9 Torr! Since the last update, on the right hand side, we built out the cross and associated turbo pump below it as well as the ion source (just above the crazy looking plumbing) and its turbo pump below. Next we need to get these hooked up to vacuum roughing lines, cooling (for the bigger one), and their control systems and power so we get them running. In contrast to the two cryopumps on the main chamber that sit at ~8 Kelvin and freeze out molecules of air, these turbo pumps knock molecules of air downward with magnetically levitated turbines that spin at ~60,000 rpm – four to six times faster than a jet engine!

September 2020. Vacuum chamber and cryopumps

24 September 2020: Two cryopumps have been mounted on the top, but so far only the West pump is running. After three weeks of pumping, the base pressure in the main chamber is already below 2x10-8 Torr. The beamline extends out to the right and we are about to attach the magnetic levitation turbo-pump on the stand at the far right.

Beamline added to main chamber

24 July 2020: The Main chamber is bolted to the floor and beamline is attached. We still need to install pumps, seal the system, and pump it out… lots of work to go but as you can see, we’re pretty happy!

Vacuum chamber arrival at BroadmeadBolting chamber to the floor

1-2 July 2020: We were finally allowed back on campus in a COVID-19 socially-distanced way and entered our (empty) Lab at 171 Broadmead. Within days we moved our main chamber from the warehouse elsewhere on campus, de-crated it outside the building, and moved it down into the Lab.