NASA is set to begin the testing of their new one-way navigation system by making use of a small atomic clock. With thisnew NASA’s Deep Atomic Clock, a spacecraft can safely fly themselves to far off destinations such as Mars and the Moon. Before the introduction of this one of a kind invention, a spacecraft could go by calculating its current location in relation to the Earth.
Now that we have the Deep Atomic Clock, data can be sentvia a relay system that has the ability to take almost everything from minutes to hours passed along. Even though this system is currently working quite well with close-to-earth missions, we will still need a new invention in order to navigate the deep-space projects.
NASA is expected to start testing the Deep Atomic Clock in June once it has already been launched on the SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket into the orbit of Earth for one year. The Atomic Clock will be tested rigorously to check whether it will be able to give a helping hand to spacecraft whenever they want to locate themselves.
If the test goes as planned, it could prove beneficial to space exploration since the doors to a one way navigation will be opened. This action is then set to allow both crewed and autonomous spacecraft to fly into deep space without encountering any problems on the way. At the moment, spacecraft that explore deep space are controlled on Earth by navigators. With the Deep Space Atomic Clock, this will be a thing of the past as it enables onboard autonomous navigation according to Jill Seubert, the deputy principal investigator.
GPS and Smartphones are Inaccurate for Deep Space
GPS and Smartphones have proved inaccurate for deep space exploration. This is because they tend to determine their location by sending data to atomic clocks on satellites that are currently orbiting the Earth. In order to determine the position of the device, we would then have to triangulate its position in relation to the atomic clock.
Spacecraft can no longer make use of GPS since any small inaccuracy will mean vast distances. Therefore, a spacecraft is forced to use giant satellites to send signals which then bounce back to Earth. With accurate clocks on the ground, they are able to measure the duration that the message takes, to send and receive. It is then that navigators can tell how far away the spacecraft is. Furthermore, they can also detect how fast it is travelling. However, despite the system being sound, it may take a long time for the messages to be sent and received. Fortunately NASA is already working on this.
NASA’s new Deep Space Atomic Clock is set to change space exploration completely once it has been fully tested. As more tests continue to be done, we will wait and see how the Deep Space Atomic Clock is going to change space exploration.