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Surrey Hosts NASA’s Deep Space Atomic Clock

We are proud to announce that our first Orbital Test Bed satellite, OTB, will host NASA’s Deep Space Atomic Clock (DSAC), having been selected by JPL under the sponsorship of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD).
For deep space exploration, timing is everything.  The DSAC is an ultra-stable, highly accurate device for timing that is essential to NASA's success on deep-space exploration missions.  Its aim: to revolutionize the way we conduct deep-space navigation by enabling a spacecraft to calculate its own timing and navigation data in real time. This great video explains how.

This is a step change from conventional in-orbit navigation, which relies on a ground-based system on Earth to calculate timing and navigation information and transmit it back to the spacecraft. This sort of navigation leaves the spacecraft dependent on bidirectional communications with Earth for instructions, which introduces increasing radio signal delays as spacecraft venture deeper into space. DSAC is enabling for a real-time, on-board radio navigation that is key to improving NASA’s capabilities for executing time-critical events, such as a planetary landing or planetary "fly-by."
The clock is a miniature mercury-ion atomic device that provides an ultra-precise time reference that is an order of magnitude more stable than today’s best space-based navigation clocks. This timing is essential to the calculation of navigation information on board the satellite.
SST-US CEO Dr. John Paffett explains, “We are delighted to have been able to adapt our own mission to accommodate the JPL Deep Space Atomic Clock and to provide a much needed flight opportunity for this critical technology development.”
Like any experimental payload, DSAC needed a suitable and timely flight opportunity to be flown in space. We were able to adapt the OTB satellite to accommodate this exciting and innovative payload. Scheduled for integration in our new facilities in Englewood, Colorado, and launch in 2015, OTB will host the DSAC payload to demonstrate the precision timing and navigation capabilities of the instrument in low Earth orbit, validating it for use on future deep space exploration missions. 
Surrey US conceived the OTB concept to accommodate payloads that are developed, shelved, or orphaned and looking for flight opportunities to operate in-orbit. By designing, building, launching, and operating the OTB satellites ourselves we are able to work closely with payload providers to integrate third-party payloads, subsystems, and equipment on each satellite in a very collaborative and flexible way.  With the payload manifest on OTB nearly finalized, we are already considering a second OTB satellite.


06 September 20130 Comments1 Comment

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