This Atomic Clock Will Change to Deep Space Analysis

James Camparo of Aerospace Corporation thinks the drift of their clock will be much slower. “The consequences of in-orbit frequency stability are encouraging for the technology,” even if the clock doesn’t operate at the most extreme settings while in space, said Camparo, who has a doctorate in chemical physics and nothing to do with the study. He expects that in the next phase of the mission, the JPL team will achieve even smaller frequency differences, further improving clock performance.

This kind of accurate timing is the requirement for future deep space missions. Today, space navigation really requires all the judgments to be made on Earth. Ground port navigations bounce radio signals on a spacecraft and back, and ultraprecise clocks can time how long the short trip will take. This resistance is used to calculate information about position, speed, and direction, and a final signal is sent back to the space station with instructions on how to fix the course.

But the time it takes to send messages over and over again is a real limit. For things near the moon, the two trips take just two seconds, according to Ely. But when you travel farther, the time required is quickly ineffective: near Mars, the travel time is about 40 minutes, and near Jupiter, it rises to an hour and a half. By the time you travel to Voyager’s current location, a satellite exploring interstellar space, he said, could take days. Far from the universe, it is impractical and unsafe to rely on this method, especially if the ship is carrying people. (Now, the unintentional missions, like Continue to land the rover on Mars, relying on automated systems for navigation decisions that need to be made on short time scales.)

The solution, the JPL team said, is to equip the spacecraft with its own atomic clock and eliminate the need for ground -based calculations. The ship must always receive an initial signal from the Earth, in order to measure its position and direction from a constant point of reference. But there is no need for a signal to come back, because the next navigation calculations can be done in real time onboard.

To date, this has been impossible. The atomic clocks used to navigate from the ground are very large-the size of refrigerators-and today’s space clocks are not reliable enough. The JPL team’s version is the first equally small enough to fit a spacecraft and big enough for one -way navigation to be a reality.

It can also be useful for land travel. On Earth, we use GPS, a network of satellites that carry atomic clocks that help us navigate the surface. But according to Ely, these clocks are not as robust-their drift needs to be corrected at least twice a day to ensure a constant flow of accurate information for each. in the World. “If you have a solid clock with less drift, you can reduce that kind of overhead,” Ely says. In the future, he also envisions that a large population of humans or robots on the moon or Mars will have to have their own tracking infrastructure; a constellation like GPS satellites, with tiny atomic clocks, can do this.

Camparo agreed, and said the device could also be configured to be used on ground stations on Mars or the moon. “It’s worth remembering that when we consider space clock time, we’re always focusing on the atomic clocks carried by the spacecraft,” he said. “However, for any constellation of satellites, there has to be a better ground station clock in the satellite system,” because that’s how scientists monitor the accuracy of space clocks.

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