Deep Space Atomic Clock

NASA’s Deep Space Atomic Clock is a critical step toward enabling spacecraft to safely, independently navigate in deep space rather than rely on the time-consuming process of receiving directions from Earth. Developed at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, the clock is the first timekeeper stable enough to map a spacecraft’s trajectory in deep space and small enough to be housed onboard. The technology demonstration is validating a miniaturized, ultra-precise mercury-ion atomic clock orders of magnitude more stable than what’s used on spacecraft today.  

Concept of the system
Tom Cwik, the head of JPL’s Space Technology Program (left) and Allen Farrington, JPL Deep Space Atomic Clock Project Manager, view the integrated Atomic Clock Payload on General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems US’s Orbital Test Bed Spacecraft. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
One of three free posters celebrating NASA’s Deep Space Atomic Clock. The mission will demonstrate technology that would allow a spacecraft to calculate its own trajectory rather than waiting for that information to come from Earth. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

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