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The Atomic Clock, GPS Receiver, and Ultra-Stable Oscillator after they were integrated into the middle bay of the satellite. Image credit: Surrey Satellite Technology

The Deep Space Atomic Clock, built at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, is a prototype of the clock designed to increase the precision of space navigation.

“Navigating in deep space requires measuring vast distances using our knowledge of how radio signals propagate in space,” said Todd Ely of JPL, DSAC’s principal investigator. “Navigating routinely requires distance measurements accurate to a meter or better. Since radio signals travel at the speed of light, that means we need to measure their time-of-flight to a precision of a few nanoseconds. Atomic clocks have done this routinely on the ground for decades. Doing this in space is what DSAC is all about.”

The next stage of the test is to launch the low-mass atomic clock on board Surrey Satellite US’s Orbital Test Bed Spacecraft.

More information from NASA can be found here.

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