NASA’s Most Accurate Outer Space Atom Clock is 50 times more accurate than GPS
The most accurate outer space atomic clock is Deep Space Atomic Clock is 50 times more accurate than GPS.
The Deep Space Atomic Clock (DSAC) was the first atomic clock independent of terrestrial measurements on board space missions. This miniaturized device offered unparalleled precision and stability. What’s the secret of the most accurate outer space atomic clock? Mercury ions rather than atoms.
The Deep Space Atomic Clock was activated on 23 August 2019. Following a mission extension in June 2020, DSAC was deactivated on 18 September 2021 after two years in operation.
Built by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Southern California, the Deep Space Atomic Clock is an ultra-precise mercury-ion atomic clock enclosed in a small box measuring about 25 centimeters (10 inches) on each side, roughly the size of ‘a toaster. Designed to survive the rigors of launch and the cold, high-radiation space environment without degrading its timing performance, the Deep Space Atomic Clock was a technological demonstration intended to achieve technological firsts and fulfill critical knowledge gaps.
After the instrument completed its one-year primary mission in Earth orbit, NASA extended the mission to collect more data due to its exceptional timing stability. But before the tech demo shut down on September 18, the mission worked overtime to extract as much data as possible in its final days.
“The Deep Space Atomic Clock mission was a resounding success, and the jewel of the story here is that the technology demonstration performed well beyond its intended operational period,” said Todd Ely, Principal Investigator and Project Manager at JPL.
Most Accurate Outer Space Atomic Clock – DSAC 2
Data from the pioneering instrument will help develop Deep Space Atomic Clock-2, a technology demonstration that will travel to Venus aboard the Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography & Spectroscopy (VERITAS) spacecraft when it launches from here 2028. It will be the first test of an atomic clock in deep space and a monumental step forward for increased autonomy of spacecraft.
This illustration shows the demonstration of NASA’s Deep Space Atomic Clock technology and the General Atomics Orbital Test Bed spacecraft that houses it. Spacecraft could one day depend on such instruments to navigate deep space.
Photo credit (main pphoto): NASA/JPL-Caltech – Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)
Main photo explanation: deep space atomic clock hardware.