#NASA #space #clock #AtomicClock #technology
NASA is set to send its next-generation atomic clock to space in late 2017. The clock is smaller, lighter yet more precise than any atomic clock flown in space before. The Deep Space Atomic Clock, as it is called, has already been successfully integrated with the spacecraft that will be taking it into the orbit later in the year.
Most spacecraft are tracked using “two-way” methods, the ground-based antenna ‘pings’ the spacecraft and waits for the signal to return. By measuring how long the signal takes to travel, the distance to the spacecraft can be calculated. A navigation team then processes this information to determine the spacecraft’s flight path and also determine if any course corrections are required.
However, in the new atomic clock, the method used will be “one-way” tracking i.e. no signal will be sent back to the Earth; and rather will be computed and processes all by the spacecraft itself.
This will also lighten the load on the antennas in NASA’s Deep Space Network, allowing more spacecraft to be tracked with a single antenna.