A review of satellite time transfer technology: Accomplishments and future applications


  • Robert S. Cooper,

  • Andrew R. Chi


A brief review of the research accomplishments by NASA in meeting the needs of the space program for precise time in satellite tracking is presented. As a major user of precise time signals for clock synchronization of NASA's worldwide satellite tracking networks, the agency provided much of the necessary impetus for the development of stable frequency sources and time synchronization technology. The precision in time required for both satellite tracking and space science experiments has increased at a rate of about 1 order of magnitude per decade from 1 ms in the 1950's to 100 μs during the Apollo era in the 1960's to 10 μs in the 1970's. In the 1980's, when the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System (TDRSS) comes into operation, satellite timing requirements will be extended to 1 μs and below. These requirements are needed for spacecraft autonomy and data packeting which are now in active planning stages.