STC Helps Launch New Era of Space Navigation

Jul. 9, 2019

Ever since the early 1700s, Western civilization has understood the important relationship of precise time keeping to accurate terrestrial navigation. This week another milestone in the history of navigation -- this time celestial navigation -- has been written, and Superior Technical Ceramics has played an important role.  

First, a bit of background is in order. Over the past 20 years, engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, have been steadily improving and miniaturizing the mercury-ion trap atomic clock, preparing it to operate in the harsh environment of deep space. While ground-based atomic clocks have long been the cornerstone of most deep-space navigation, these scientists have created a miniaturized, low-mass atomic clock they call the Deep Space Atomic Clock. Made more portable and powerful than ever, it has been manufactured to excel in the harsh environment of space, allowing precise automated navigation for space craft.


Of course, making such a clock requires incredibly precise and robust componentry, and that's where STC came in. Our engineers worked closely with a long time client who is a market leader in the creation of ceramic-to-metal sealing technology solutions. For them, we created a custom-crafted technical ceramics tube that they went on to braze with metal fittings. The result? A key component in one of the world's most accurate miniaturized time keeping devices.

Earlier this week SpaceX launched a Falcon heavy rocket with a payload of 24 satellites, one of which was the Deep Space Atomic Clock. It is now in orbit around Earth, braving the cold vacuum of outer space, keeping time with such accuracy that it loses less than a second over ten million years.  Its capabilities will underpin future efforts to ferry astronauts and payloads across our solar system and beyond. 

Another satisfied customer. Another era of space exploration launched.