NASA Tests Atomic Clock for Deep Space Navigation

A glimpse of the Deep Space Atomic Clock in the middle bay of the General Atomics Orbital Test Bed spacecraft. (Credit: NASA)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — In deep space, accurate timekeeping is vital to navigation, but not all spacecraft have precise timepieces aboard. For 20 years, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, has been perfecting a clock. It’s not a wristwatch; not something available in a store. It’s the Deep Space Atomic Clock (DSAC), an instrument being built for deep space exploration.

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Futuristic Atomic Clock Prepared for Space

Tom Cwik, the head of JPL’s Space Technology Program (left) and Allen Farrington, JPL Deep Space Atomic Clock Project Manager, view the recently integrated Atomic Clock Payload on Surrey Satellite US’s Orbital Test Bed Spacecraft. (Credit: Surrey Satellite Technology)

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (NASA PR) — No one keeps time quite like NASA.

Last month, the space agency’s next-generation atomic clock was joined to the spacecraft that will take it into orbit in late 2017.

That instrument, the Deep Space Atomic Clock was developed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. On Feb. 17, JPL engineers monitored integration of the clock on to the Surrey Orbital Test Bed spacecraft at Surrey Satellite Technology in Englewood, Colorado.

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NASA Space Technology Year in Review

Mars 2020 Lander Vision System flight tested aboard a Masten “Xombie” up to 1,066 feet on December 9, 2014 at Mojave Air and Space Port in California. (Credits: NASA Photo / Tom Tschida)
Mars 2020 Lander Vision System flight tested aboard a Masten “Xombie” up to 1,066 feet on December 9, 2014 at Mojave Air and Space Port in California. (Credits: NASA Photo / Tom Tschida)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) is dedicated to pushing the technological envelope, taking on challenges not only to further space agency missions near Earth, but also to sustain future deep space exploration activities.

“In 2016, we completed several major program milestones,” explains Steve Jurczyk, NASA associate administrator for STMD.

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NASA Space Technology Achievements in 2015

Credit: NASA
Credit: NASA

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) checked off a number of key accomplishments in 2015. These advancements pushed the technological envelope, not only for use near Earth, but also to support future deep-space exploration missions.

“In 2015 we have made significant progress with several of our larger technology demonstration initiatives,” explains Steve Jurczyk, NASA associate administrator for STMD.

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