Thu. May 26th, 2022

This figure shows a demonstration of NASA’s deep space atomic technology and the General Atomics Orbital TestBed spacecraft hosting it. Spacecraft can one day rely on such equipment to navigate deep space. Credit: NASA

The technical demonstration aimed at improving the navigation of the spacecraft worked much longer than planned and broke the record for the stability of the atomic clock in space.

For over 2 years NASAThe Deep Space Atomic Clock has pushed the pinnacle of timekeeping in space. On September 18, 2021, the mission was successfully completed.

This equipment is hosted on a General Atomics orbital test bed spacecraft. Release went aboard the Department of Defense Space Test Program 2 mission on June 25, 2019. Its goal is to test the possibility of using a built-in atomic clock to improve spacecraft navigation in deep space.

NASA Deep Space Atomic Clock

Deep Space Atomic Clock is approx. 25 cm on each side and is the size of a toaster. Its compact design is an important requirement, and even smaller iterations will be on board NASA’s VERITAS spacecraft. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

Currently, spacecraft are dependent on ground-based atomic clocks. To measure the orbit of a spacecraft moving across the moon, navigators use these timers to track exactly when these signals are sent and received. The navigator knows that the radio signal is moving at the speed of light (approximately 186,000 miles per second or 300,000 kilometers per second), so these time measurements are used to determine the exact distance, speed and direction of travel of the spacecraft. Can be calculated.

But as the spacecraft moves away from Earth, it takes minutes to hours to send and receive signals, significantly delaying these calculations. By combining the built-in atomic clock with a navigation system, the spacecraft can instantly calculate where it is and where it is headed.

Launch of atomic clock in deep space

The Deep Space Atomic Clock will be launched on Tuesday, June 25, 2019 from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on the SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket as part of the Department of Defense’s Space Test Program 2 (STP-2) mission. It was launched. Credits: NASA / Joel Kowsky

The Deep Space Atomic Clock is manufactured by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California and is an atomic clock with a very precision mercury ion in a small box about 25 cm on each side, about the size of a toaster. .. .. Deep Space Atomic Clocks are designed to withstand the hard launch and the cold, high radiation environment of the universe without compromising on timing, bridging technical first practice and important knowledge. It was a technology demonstration aimed at.

Watch this video to learn why exact timing in space is crucial and how NASA’s Deep Space Atomic Clock can autonomously navigate future spacecraft independently of Earth. Credit: NASA /JPL-California Institute of Technology

After completing a year of major mission in Earth’s orbit, NASA has extended its mission We collect more data due to its extraordinary time stability stability, but before the tech demo struck from September 18, The mission worked overtime and extracted as much data as possible on the last day.

Todd Erie, JPL’s lead researcher and project manager, said:

Data from groundbreaking instruments will help the development of the Deep Space Atomic Clock-2. Venus NASA Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Terrain and Spectroscopy (VERITAS) A spacecraft launched in 2028. This is the first test of an atomic clock in deep space and a monumental advance in increasing the autonomy of spacecraft.

Stability is everything

Atomic clocks are the most stable timers on the planet, but they are still unstable and can cause a slight delay or “shift” between the clock time and the actual time. If they are not corrected, these displacements are summed, which can lead to major placement errors. Fraction of a second can mean the difference between arriving safely March Or you lose the planet completely.

Updates can be sent from the ground to the spacecraft to correct these displacements. For example, Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites carry an atomic clock and move from point A to point B. Frequent updates must be sent from the ground to maintain accurate time. However, it would often be impractical to have to send updates from Earth to the atomic clock in deep space and would defeat the purpose of equipping the spacecraft with it.

This is why the atomic clock on a spacecraft exploring deep space must be as stable as possible from the beginning. This makes it less dependent on the updated soil.

“The Deep Space Atomic Clock has succeeded in this goal,” said Eric Bart, JPL’s atomic physicist. “We have set a new record for long-term atomic clock stability in space that is more than an order of magnitude better than GPS atomic clocks, enabling more autonomy in deep space missions. , Means that if GPS satellites are equipped with our equipment, we can reduce our reliance on updates twice daily. “

Deep Space Atomic Clock Poster

Three eye-catching posters featuring Deep Space Atomic Clock and how spacecraft and astronauts will use future versions of tech demos You can download it from here. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

so New research The Deep Space Atomic Clock team reported a deviation of less than 4 nanoseconds after more than 20 days of operation.

Like its predecessor, the Deep Space Atomic Clock-2 is a technical demo. That is, VERITAS does not rely on it to achieve its goals. However, this next iteration is smaller, uses less power, and is designed to support multi-year missions such as VERITAS.

Trudy Kortes, director of NASA’s technological demonstration of science, said: Technology Mission (STMD) at NASA’s headquarters in Washington. “It simply came to our notice then. We develop new technologies and strengthen existing technologies to promote space travel between humans and robots. Deep Space Atomic Clock is what we do in deep space. It has the potential to change the way we explore. “

Jason Mitchell, Director of Advanced Communications and Navigation Technology at NASA’s Space Communication and Navigation (SCaN), agreed: “The performance of this unit is truly extraordinary and a testament to the capabilities of the team. In the future, the Deep Space Atomic Clock will only enable important new operational features for NASA’s studies of humans and robots. Instead, it may also allow for a deeper study of the basic physics of the theory of relativity, as watches that support GPS did. “

Mission details

The Deep Space Atomic Clock is hosted on a spaceship provided by General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems in Inglewood, Colorado. It is sponsored by STMD’s Technology Demonstration Mission Program at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama and SCaN within NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission. JPL manages the project.

NASA’s Deep Space Atomic Clock Completes Successful Mission Source Link NASA’s Deep Space Atomic Clock Completes Success

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