deep space atomic clock illustration dsac orbital test bed otb spacecraft spacex falcon heavy launch nasa

SpaceX plans to launch its Falcon Heavy rocket, the world’s most powerful operational launch system, for the third time on June 24.
The mission will launch a NASA experiment called the Deep Space Atomic Clock (DSAC) into orbit.
Atomic clocks are thousands of times more precise than standard watches.
Clocks like DSAC could enable robots and crewed missions to use autonomous, real-time navigation, which is currently not feasible in deep space.
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SpaceX plans to lift off its Falcon Heavy rocket — the most powerful operational launch system in the world — for a third time on June 24.

When the 230-foot-tall rocket thunders away from Cape Canaveral, Florida, it will carry 25 small spacecraft inside its nosecone, including a groundbreaking clock designed to be the most accurate ever to work in space.

NASA created the multi-million-dollar timepiece, called the Deep Space Atomic Clock (DSAC), to keep track of time in space more precisely than any device before it — without being too heavy or big, or consuming too much energy.

The DSAC, which is the size of a four-slice toaster, is designed to keep time that’s accurate to within one-ten-millionth of a second over the span of a year.

But obsessive timekeeping is not the overarching purpose of DSAC. The project’s ultimate goal is to help robots and crewed ships navigate the solar system autonomously, without instructions from Earth. That’s something spacecraft can’t do today, but the capability would open the door for more flexible missions and could make some scientific instruments more powerful.

Todd Ely, a space navigator and leader of the DSAC experiment, said he thinks this type of clock will also be crucial for future human space explorers. Without an on-board atomic clock like DSAC, …read more

Source:: Business Insider


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