Atomic clocks on indigenous navigation satellite IRNSS-1A develops snag

Posted on:30 Jan 2017 18:15:09
Atomic clocks on indigenous navigation satellite IRNSS-1A develops snag
30 January 2017 Current Affairs: The atomic clocks on the first satellite IRNSS-1A of the NavIC (Navigation with Indian Constellation), the indigenously built satellite-based positioning system, has developed a technical snag. 

One of the three crucial rubidium timekeepers (atomic clock) on IRNSS-1A satellites failed six months ago and the other two followed subsequently. ISRO will soon launch one of its back up navigation satellites as a replacement to IRNSS-1A satellite.

Remaining satellites of NavIC constellation (having total 7 satellites) are performing their core function of providing accurate position, navigation and time. 

Each satellite has three clocks and a total of 27 clocks for the navigation satellite system. These clocks are supplied same foreign vendor. These clocks are important to provide precise data. The troubled IRNSS-1A spacecraft was put in space in July 2013 and has an expected life span of 10 years. The seventh navigation satellite, IRNSS-1G, was launched in April 2016.

It is an extremely accurate type of clock regulated by the vibrations of an atomic or molecular system. Its principle of operation is not based on nuclear physics, but rather on atomic physics. It uses the microwave signal that electrons in atoms emit when they change energy levels. 

The accuracy of an atomic clock depends on two factors, temperature of the sample atoms and frequency and intrinsic width of the electronic transition (higher frequencies and narrow lines increase the precision).

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