An atomic clock
that could pave the way for an autonomous spaceflight was successfully activated
Last week and is ready to start his years of tech demo, the mission team
confirmed on Friday, August 23, 2019. Launched in June, NASA's Deep Space Atomic Clock is a critical step in spacecraft activation
to safely move in space instead of relying on that
time-consuming process of receiving instructions from the earth.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, is the clock
The first timekeeper that is stable enough to map the trajectory of a spacecraft in space
be small enough to fly aboard the spacecraft. A more stable clock can
Keep working away from Earth where it has to work well for a long time
Satellites closer to home.
are used as with GPS satellites to measure the distance between two satellites
Specifies how long a signal takes to get from point A to point B.
Atomic clocks must be extremely accurate for space research: a mistake by
One second means the difference between landing on a planet like Mars or
miss it by hundreds of thousands of miles. Up to 50 times more stable than
In atomic clocks on GPS satellites, the mercury-ion space atomic clock loses one second
Test this accuracy in space.
Currently, use refrigerator-sized atomic clocks on Earth to determine the position of a spacecraft
Location. Minutes to hours can pass when a signal is sent from Earth to Earth
Spaceship before returning to Earth, where it is used to create
Instructions that are then sent back to the spaceship. A clock on board a
Spacecraft would instead allow the spacecraft to calculate its own trajectory
waiting for navigators on earth to send this information. This progress would
Free missions to travel on and eventually bring people safely to others
of the space experiment is to set the depth
Space Atomic Clock in the context of a spacecraft – complete with
the things that affect the stability and accuracy of a watch – and see if it is
Performance at the level that we believe it will be: with orders of magnitude more stability
as existing space watches, "said Navigator Todd Ely, Principal Investigator
the project at JPL.
For months, the team will measure how well the watch keeps track of time
Nanosecond. The results start counting down to a day when the technology is safe
Help astronauts go into other worlds.
The Deep Space Atomic Clock is hosted on a spaceship
provided by General Atomic Electromagnetic Systems, Englewood, Colorado. It
is sponsored by the technology
Demonstration Mission Program as part of the NASA Space Technology Mission
Directorate and the room
Communication and Navigation Program as part of NASA's Human Exploration and Operations
Mission Directorate. JPL manages the project.
News Media Contact
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California