National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is set to launch its Deep Space Atomic Clock (DSAC) later this year. This may eventually improve the precision and quantity of data used by scientists to analyze various aspects of planets.
The atomic clock will play an import role in future deep space missions. According to NASA, the clock will be smaller, lighter and will possess magnitudes more precise than any atomic clock flown in space ever.
According to NASA, “Deep Space Atomic Clock is highly sophisticated, lighter, smaller, and more precise than any other navigational clock. The Deep Space Atomic Clock will make the tracking measurements much easier and real-time than ever before.”
The DSAC was eventually integrated into the Surrey Orbital Test Bed (OTB) spacecraft at the Surrey Satellite Technology (SST)by JPL engineers in Englewood, Colorado on Feb 17. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California had developed the atomic clock.
It’s a one-way method that will enable scientists to track the spaceships in real-time, without sending back signals to Earth. Up to now, NASA has been using the two-way method for tracking the spacecraft. From a ground-based antenna, NASA used to send signals to the onboard spaceships and wait for the return of the signal. Once the signals come back to earth, scientists measure the distance and time of the signal intervals, following which they estimate the position of probes in the space. But the new clock will enable the scientists a one-way method for locating the spacecraft and navigating it on the right track. It will lighten the load on the antennas in NASA’s Deep Space Network, allowing more spacecraft to be tracked with a single antenna.
“The clock enables “one-way” tracking, where the spacecraft doesn’t need to send the signal back to Earth. The tracking measurements could be taken onboard and processed with a spacecraft-based navigation system to determine the path and whether any maneuvers are needed to stay on course,” NASA wrote on its website.
“This will be a key advance for safely navigating future human exploration of the solar system by providing astronauts with their position and velocity when they need it,” NASA said.