ESA determines new 'space time'

the latest tech news, global tech news daily, tech news today, startups, usa tech, asia tech, china tech, eu tech, global tech, in-depth electronics reviews, 24h tech news, 24h tech news, top mobile apps, tech news daily, gaming hardware, big tech news, useful technology tips, expert interviews, reporting on the business of technology, venture capital funding, programing language

ESA determines new 'space time'

Since November 2021, ESA’s satellites and ground stations have been running on a newly defined, incredibly precise “ESOC time”. Measured by two atomic clocks in the basement of the ESOC mission control centre in Germany, this new time determination will bring wide-reaching operational benefits for all ESA missions, making new feats possible in space while adding to our global definition of ‘now’.

the latest tech news, global tech news daily, tech news today, startups, usa tech, asia tech, china tech, eu tech, global tech, in-depth electronics reviews, 24h tech news, 24h tech news, top mobile apps, tech news daily, gaming hardware, big tech news, useful technology tips, expert interviews, reporting on the business of technology, venture capital funding, programing language

“What’s the time?” You ask, simply enough.

“Correct to how many decimal places?” ESA mission control replies. “Our atomic clocks are now accurate to within 5 nanoseconds, with respect to Coordinated Universal Time (UTC).”

Global Tech News Daily

You walk away, perhaps slightly irritated. Why on Earth would anyone need to know the time to within a few billionths of a second? Well, if you’ve ever travelled by car, used online banking, a mobile phone, or watched TV, you’ve likely reaped the rewards of atomic timekeeping.

As Einstein discovered, time is relative; the time on a clock depends on how fast it is moving or how far it is from a massive body, such as its altitude above the surface of Earth. As such, clocks on the top of a mountain read slightly differently to those at the bottom of the ocean, and remarkably one twin speeding through space ages at a different rate to their initially identical sibling on Earth.

Global Tech News Daily

Because of this, it is in fact impossible to know the exact time ‘right now’ anywhere other than your precise location. Comparing clocks at two different locations takes time: imagine asking a Martian for the time on the Red Planet – it will take about 14 minutes for your message to arrive and the same again to get their response. By the time you receive their message, it’s out of date.

This may not have mattered centuries ago, but our modern world relies on a shared conception of the present moment. Enter, “paper time”.

Paper time
Before trains, different local regions defined their own, independent time defined by the movement of the Sun.

As people began speeding from one location to another, a coordinated time was needed so that train drivers wouldn’t need to continuously update their clocks as they passed from region to region, and passengers knew the time when they arrived at their destination. This led to the creation of ‘Greenwich Mean Time’ in 1884, the mean solar time counted from midnight by the Royal Observatory in Greenwich.

By the mid-20th century, atomic clocks revealed that melting ice sheets, earthquakes and the natural motions in Earth’s crust, oceans and atmosphere create day-to-day variations in the time it takes for Earth to spin on its axis. In 1967, Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) was adopted, incorporating measurements of Earth’s rotation with averaged readings from around 400 extremely precise, local, atomic clocks around the world.

“About 90 ‘time laboratories’ around the world generate local realisations of UTC, which are monitored continuously,” explains Erik Schoenemann, Navigation Engineer at ESOC and responsible Project Manager.

“On a monthly basis, the International Bureau of Weights and Measures just outside Paris, processes the results issued by all those laboratories to retrospectively calculate a weighted average steered to the definition of the SI second and adjusted every now and then with the addition of ‘leap seconds’ to correct for the rotation of the Earth, UTC. This combined time is defined as a paper clock as it only exists in theory, and can only be discovered after-the-fact, with a lag of about six weeks.”

ESOC o’clock
Since 2012, ESA’s ESTEC technical centre in the Netherlands has contributed to UTC with its atomic clocks located in Noordwijk, the Netherlands. Now, the Agency’s ESOC mission control centre is officially adding its measurements to the mix, with the combined measurements from the two sites being dubbed “UTC(ESA)”.

“The time previously provided by ESTEC was under laboratory conditions and not used by our ground stations or missions. The main difference now is that we generate an ‘operational time’, ready to use immediately for all missions, without interruption,” explains Werner Enderle, Head of ESA’s Navigation Support Office at ESOC.

“ESOC time will have a significant influence on our abilities. Providing a direct link to UTC for all our missions will allow for significant new features and developments which weren’t previously possible,” adds Sinda Mejri, frequency and timing expert at ESOC.

“This really will make a big difference, and it’s all down to the brilliant work and collaboration between teams at ESOC, ESTEC and our ground stations.”

Time is of the essence
Time itself is considered part of the critical infrastructure in many countries, or at least having access to a precise, reference time.

This universal time is used for weather forecasting, by pilots flying through different time zones, spacecraft operators flying missions in space, as well as much of the vital infrastructure that underpins our economies and societies from the stock exchange to the internet.

ESA missions will also benefit, from the Agency’s fleet of Earth observation satellites to orbiting observatories like Gaia, deep-space missions like Solar Orbiter and in particular, future missions to the Moon.

In fact, lunar operations will depend on interoperable GNSS time – precise, lunar access to an agreed ‘now’, allowing for multi-mission, multi-user operations on and around the Moon. ESA has recently been charged by the International Committee on Global Navigation Satellite Systems with proposing potential concepts for such an interoperable GNSS time, which could also be used for lunar missions. The recent UTC determination at ESOC is a fundamental step towards the goal.

Not only does ‘ESA time’ help improve the accuracy of UTC worldwide, but it means all the Agency’s missions, now and in the future, home and away, will benefit from an immediate, precise answer to the seemingly simple question, “what time is it?”

News Related


New Earth Trojan asteroid

An International team of astronomers led by researcher Toni Santana-Ros, from the University of Alicante and the Institute of Cosmos Sciences of the University of Barcelona (ICCUB), has confirmed the ... Read more »

Space Foundation Launches Space Commerce Institute

Space Foundation, a nonprofit advocate organization founded in 1983 for the global space ecosystem, has launched Space Commerce Institute, a program offered by Center for Innovation and Education to facilitate ... Read more »

Boost for space clusters across the UK

These regional hubs, known as space clusters, will support new and growing companies, building on local expertise and catalysing investment into the space sector. Over 600,000 pounds will go towards ... Read more »

Turion Space and NanoAvionics to build a satellite for orbital reconnaissance mission

US company Turion Space, aiming to build spacecraft to remove orbital-debris, satellite servicing, and domain awareness, has selected NanoAvionics small satellite bus, the MP42, as the basis for its ‘Droid-1’ ... Read more »

Incoming! Debris enroute to the Moon

The Moon is set to gain one more crater. A leftover SpaceX Falcon 9 upper stage will impact the lunar surface in early March, marking the first time that a ... Read more »

Rocket Lab to expand Colorado dootprint with new Space Systems Complex

Rocket Lab USA will open a new space systems complex in Littleton, Colorado to support growing customer demand for flight software, mission simulation, and Guidance, Navigation and Control (GNC) services. ... Read more »

Punxsutawney Phil predicts six more weeks of winter in US

Don’t put away those coats and mittens just yet, America. Punxsutawney Phil, the world’s furriest weather forecaster, is predicting six more weeks of winter. In an annual February 2 tradition, ... Read more »

Animal genomes: Chromosomes almost unchanged for over 600 million years

Animal diversity is fascinating, but how is this reflected in their genetic material, the genome? Is it possible to definitely distinguish animals from one another based on genetic information, and ... Read more »

Newly discovered asteroid just second of its kind

You may have heard of the Trojans, two vast swarms of asteroids that lead and trail Jupiter on its orbit around the Sun. But the king of the planets doesn’t ... Read more »

Did comet's fiery destruction lead to downfall of ancient Hopewell?

The rapid decline of the Hopewell culture about 1,500 years ago might be explained by falling debris from a near-Earth comet that created a devastating explosion over North America, laying ... Read more »

Even dying stars can still give birth to planets

Planets are usually not much older than the stars around which they revolve. Take the Sun: it was born 4.6 billion years ago, and not long after that, Earth came ... Read more »

Study shows 'shocking' way Earth's magnetic field produces plasma jets

Even though Earth’s magnetic field shields us from solar wind and space weather-it doesn’t always offer complete protection. Researchers have discovered a new mechanism in Earth’s space environment that can ... Read more »

China's solar research to get boost from satellite

China’s solar observation satellite has achieved some scientific and technological feats during its ongoing in-orbit trial operation, according to a space official. Zhao Jian, head of the China National Space ... Read more »

SpaceX scrubs launch of Italian satellite from Florida, will try again Friday

SpaceX on Thursday scrubbed its planned launch of an Italian Earth-observation satellite, the COSMO-SkyMed Second Generation 2 and said it plans to try again Friday. “Due to unfavorable weather, now ... Read more »

Lowell helps confirm second Earth Trojan

Supported by observations made with the 4.3-meter Lowell Discovery Telescope (LDT) in northern Arizona, an international team of scientists confirmed the existence of the second-known Earth Trojan Asteroid (ETA), 2020 ... Read more »

NASA details plan to deorbit International Space Station in 2031

NASA has released details of the International Space Station’s transition plan, including destruction of the structure in 2031, and research goals for the interim and the future. The ISS will ... Read more »

The universe much sharper in the picture with new algorithms and supercomputers

With new algorithms and supercomputers, an incredibly detailed radio map of the universe was created. Now astronomers can look at radio data of galaxies with much more precision. This was ... Read more »

Satellogic Announces Strategic Partnership With Palantir Technologies

Satellogic Inc., a leader in sub-meter resolution satellite imagery collection, has announced a new partnership with Palantir Technologies Inc. (NYSE:PLTR), a leading builder of operating systems for the modern enterprise. ... Read more »

Space Sustainability - It's Time for Action

His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales visited Astroscale’s ELSA-d Mission Control Centre this afternoon, to learn more from the first private company to demonstrate a vision for the safe ... Read more »

Scientists identify geological 'Goldilocks zone' for the formation of metal ore deposits

Scientists have identified a mechanism through which important metals, crucial to the manufacturing of renewable energy technologies, are passed from the Earth’s mantle to the crust. The team, including researchers ... Read more »

D-Orbit merges with Breeze Holdings Acquisition Corp. to become Publicly Company

D-Orbit S.p.A., an Italy-based and market leading space logistics and transportation company, has announced that it will become publicly listed through a business combination with Breeze Holdings Acquisition Corp. (NASDAQ: ... Read more »

SpaceX sucessfully launches Italian Earth-observation satellite

SpaceX successfully launched an Italian Earth-observation satellite, the COSMO-SkyMed Second Generation 2, from Florida after several days of setbacks. A Falcon 9 rocket mounted with the spacecraft lifted off at ... Read more »

NASA asteroid tracking system now capable of full sky search

The NASA-funded Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System (ATLAS)-a state-of-the-art asteroid detection system operated by the University of Hawaii (UH) Institute for Astronomy (IfA) for the agency’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office ... Read more »

2D material in three dimensions

The carbon material graphene has no well-defined thickness, it merely consists of one single layer of atoms. It is therefore often referred to as a “two-dimensional material”. Trying to make ... Read more »

New funding to support sustainable future of space

The UK Space Agency is providing 1.7 million pounds for new projects to support sustainable space operations, Science Minister George Freeman announced Monday. The 13 new projects will help track ... Read more »

What the rise of oxygen on early Earth tells us about life on other planets

When did the Earth reach oxygen levels sufficient to support animal life? Researchers from McGill University have discovered that a rise in oxygen levels occurred in step with the evolution ... Read more »

Rocket Lab to provide Venture Class Launch Services for NASA

Rocket Lab has been selected by NASA as one of twelve companies to provide launch services for the agency’s Venture-Class Acquisition of Dedicated and Rideshare (VADR) missions, providing new opportunities ... Read more »

How NASA in Silicon Valley will use Webb Telescope to study distant worlds

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is getting ready to give us the best view yet of worlds beyond our own solar system, commonly known as exoplanets. Scientists at NASA’s Ames ... Read more »

Exoplanet has Earth-like layered atmosphere made of titanium gas

Scientists have discovered that a planet outside of the solar system may have a complex atmosphere made of metal gases that operate like Earth’s atmosphere. The research, published in the ... Read more »

In space race, Europe faces choice: passenger or pilot

As the race to send people to the Moon and beyond heats up, Europe faces calls to make a choice: Keep paying for seats on spacecraft or finally fly its ... Read more »

Astra Awarded VADR Contract by NASA

Astra Space, Inc. has been awarded of the Venture-Class Acquisition of Dedicated and Rideshare (VADR) Launch Services Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contract from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) ... Read more »

New ISS National Laboratory tool expands visibility of ISS-related educational resources

The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, Inc. (CASIS), manager of the International Space Station (ISS) National Laboratory, has announced the release of a new online tool for ... Read more »

NASA provides updated International Space Station Transition Plan

The International Space Station is a unique laboratory that is returning enormous scientific, educational, and technological developments to benefit people on Earth and is enabling our ability to travel into ... Read more »

When light loses symmetry, it can hold particles

Optical tweezers use light to immobilize microscopic particles as small as a single atom in 3D space. The basic principle behind optical tweezers is the momentum transfer between light and ... Read more »

Chinese satellite reportedly grappled, moved another spacecraft away from orbit

The event was discussed as part of a webinar on managing the risks of satellite close approaches in geostationary orbit, hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies and ... Read more »

China's cooperation with int'l space community fruitful

China has been engaged with the international space community over the past five years, yielding fruitful results in space science, technology and application, a Chinese official said Friday. China launched ... Read more »

Extreme exoplanet has a complex and exotic atmosphere

An international team including researchers from the University of Bern and the University of Geneva as well as the National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) PlanetS analyzed the atmosphere ... Read more »

China to improve space infrastructure with new satellites, technologies: white paper

China will continue to improve its space infrastructure, and integrate remote-sensing, communications, navigation, and positioning satellite technologies in the next five years, according to a white paper released on Friday. ... Read more »

China to boost satellite services, space technology application: white paper

China will continue to boost public services with satellites and promote the application and transfer of space technology in the next five years, according to a white paper on the ... Read more »

Shining a light on synthetic dimensions

Humans experience the world in three dimensions, but a collaboration in Japan has developed a way to create synthetic dimensions to better understand the fundamental laws of the Universe and ... Read more »