NASA activates Deep Space Atomic Clock

  • NASA activates Deep Space Atomic Clock

NASA activates Deep Space Atomic Clock

For NASA, nonetheless, guaranteeing that missions deep into space have correct readings of time is extremely essential, and it's so important that the company truly launched an atomic clock into space again in April.

The end product is an atomic clock that is both highly accurate and very rugged.

An atomic clock must be hyper-precise for travel through deep space, where everything is bigger and mistakes quickly can add up. The clocks utilized by NASA on Earth are enormous - the dimensions of a refrigerator, in accordance with JPL - so shrinking issues down a bit and making certain the hardware can deal with situations in space are each high priorities for NASA. For distant missions, scientists wouldn't need to wait for their signal to arrive at the spacecraft and return to Earth to know where the craft is - they could begin tracking as soon as they received the craft's signal. NASA's Deep Space Atomic Clock, launched in June, is a vital step towards enabling spacecraft to securely navigate themselves in deep space rather than depend on the time-consuming means of receiving directions from Earth. These missions have to beam signals back to Earth, allowing a clock to calculate how long it took for the signal to reach us.

The mercury ion Deep Space Atomic Clock loses one second every 10 million years as proven after tests.

This miniature device shot up in space this June and is the first Global Positioning System like technology to be used in space. Instead, it uses mercury ions with a hyperfine transition frequency of 40.5 GHz. This back and forth can take a few minutes or even hours.

Now that this atomic clock is activated, the team at JPL will measure how it keeps time down to the nanosecond.

While this technology is being tested for crewless spacecraft, it is meant to one day support crewed missions to deep space.

The DSAC's main selling point is that it doesn't rely on consumables to work - a desirable trait for deep space missions.

"The goal of the space experiment is to put the Deep Space Atomic Clock in the context of an operating spacecraft - complete with the things that affect the stability and accuracy of a clock - and see if it performs at the level we think it will: with orders of magnitude more stability than existing space clocks", said navigator Todd Ely, principal investigator of the project at Jet Propulsion Lab, in the press release.