NASA is set to put an atomic clock into space using the upcoming SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket that’s scheduled to launch later this month. The clock, named Deep Space Atomic Clock will help NASA’s autonomous spacecraft to navigate through space in future.
Current space navigations rely on calculating a spacecraft’s position relative to earth and then sending the location data to the spacecraft from here on Earth. As a result, the spacecraft is always required to be connected to Earth. Consequently, the transmission might take longer depending on many factors. As you can image, this isn’t a practical solution for space missions that need immediate response from Earth.
However, the Deep Atomic Space Clock will solve to the problem by providing a GPS like technology. It will allow spacecrafts to know their relative positions without relying on the data from Earth. In order to check if the technology is working perfectly, NASA will send the first space clock to space with the upcoming launch. If the upcoming mission goes well, the device will solve a possible error in space navigation. Moreover, the Deep Space Atomic Clock is 50 times more accurate than the traditional GPS clocks. However, it will be a long time before scientists can use the clock in order to navigate automated spacecrafts as NASA said that it might be able to start using the clock in mission in the later part of next decade at earliest.