NASA to Test Deep Space Navigation Tech Aboard General Atomics Spacecraft

NASA plans to test the accuracy of its instrument that is designed to support deep space navigation aboard a General Atomics spacecraft.

The space agency said Tuesday its Deep Space Atomic Clock will be launched later this year as a hosted payload on General Atomic’s Orbital Test Bed spacecraft as part of the U.S. Air Force‘s Space Technology Program-2 mission.

Ground-based atomic clocks support the navigation of most space missions through a two-way tracking process, which limits the monitoring capacity of a ground station to only one spacecraft at a time.

Todd Ely, DSAC principal investigator at NASA, said DSAC will work to bring the navigation support of ground-based atomic clocks to space.

DSAC is designed to enable ground stations to track multiple satellites at once; help spacecraft focus on their missions; and boost the accuracy of tracking data.

The flight test is intended to validate whether DSAC can maintain a two nanosecond time accuracy over a day, with a goal to reach 0.3 nanosecond precision.

If proven, DSAC’s technologies could also improve the service of global positioning systems, NASA noted.

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