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SpaceX's next Falcon Heavyweights NASA atomic clock carves up Mars travel technology

There are so many things in NASA. Mars spacecraft It's difficult to communicate with all of them, but the technologies that will be released later this month may resolve future issues.

The technology Deep Space Atomic Clock, A test system that NASA has developed for 20 years. Helps spacecraft navigate and communicate without the need to get much support from the planet. The onboard STP-2 mission June 24 SpaceX Falcon Heavy RocketWill perform the first test of the clock in space.

Jill Seubert, a deep space explorer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said, "Today, all space explorers exploring the depths of the earth are relying on exploration again on Earth, Because the clock on the watch does not accurately measure the time accurately, you have to search from the earth. But if we can change it, we can revolutionize the way we can explore deep space. "

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And that's where the deep space atomic clock comes in. nuclear clock It will not travel into space, and it can measure a billionth of a second – but it takes up space in a gallon kettle, not a refrigerator. This miniaturization means that the instrument can be loaded on a spacecraft and fired.

Once in space, the clock must be able to keep accurate time without earth intervention. It is a distinct contrast of modern clocks. GPS satellites, You'll need to edit it twice over time. But accurate time management is essential to spacecraft, Suwal spokesman said.

"Tracking a space ship as it travels around is essentially a matter of time measurement," she said. "We can not take the ruler out and measure how far the spacecraft is, but instead measure the time it takes for the spacecraft to repeat the radio signal from Earth."

Engineers have incorporated NASA's Deep Space Atomic Clock into a satellite orbiting the orbit of the orbit test bed, which began its STP-2 mission in SpaceX Falcon Heavy rockets in June 2019.

(Image: © General Atomics)

These radio signals are encoded with the correct time stamp at the time of production. And the radio signal is a light wave. The speed of light is constant.Calculating the distance a signal travels is a direct math problem. The signal can be moved from there to the ship's onboard computer just by moving from Earth to the ship.

This autonomy is the result of the Outer edge of the solar systemThe roundtrip communication with the earth is too long to be practical.

Only one or two outposts on NASA's Deep Space Network that communicate with all agency spacecraft can head to Mars at any given time. And now the network must ping each ship visitor at once to stay on course. "All the spacecraft on Mars must now share tracking time with the Deep Space network," said Sourbott. "They are sharing time."

It is therefore attractive that the atomic clock is based on a simple unidirectional radio signal. All spaceships in Red Planet can see their location simultaneously using the same signal and time sharing is not required. "What this means is that you can fundamentally support an infinite number of spaceships that go around Mars with this architecture," said Sourbert.

And this system is Human on Mars surface Or in a still more ambitious destination, Seubert said; This system will work more like an exotic GPS.

"Imagine an astronaut hiking on Mars, perhaps Olympus Mons is emerging as a background." "She checks Google Maps Mars Edition to determine her location and decide where to go."

The scenario is far from yet, but the first step is to get real data on how Deep Space Atomic Clock works in space. Once the equipment arrives safely in orbit, Seubert and his colleagues will maintain the expected time, make sure that they can withstand a year in a dangerous space environment, and use GPS data to check the meter reading.

The Deep Space Atomic Clock mission costs NASA $ 80 million.

For complete coverage of Falcon Heavy launch and STP-2 missions, visit on June 24.

Please email Meban Bartels at or follow her. @ Megan Battelle. Follow us. On Twitter @Spacedotcom In ~ Facebook.

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