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NASA engineers build Stopwatch to measure accurately Fraction of a billionth of Second

The timer is to be used for the Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) scheduled for launch in 2018

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NASA Headquarter in USA, VOA

Washington, March 28, 2017: NASA engineers have built a stopwatch that can measure accurately fraction of a billionth of a second.

The timer is to be used for the Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) scheduled for launch in 2018, NASA said.

ICESat-2 will use six green laser beams to measure height. With its incredibly precise time measurements, scientists can calculate the distance between the satellite and the Earth below, and from there record precise height measurements of sea ice, glaciers, ice sheets, forests and the rest of the planet’s surfaces.

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“Light moves really, really fast, and if you’re going to use it to measure something to a couple of centimetres, you’d better have a really, really good clock,” said Tom Neumann, ICESat-2’s Deputy Project Scientist.

If its stopwatch kept time even to a highly accurate millionth of a second, ICESat-2 could only measure elevation to within about 500 feet.

Scientists would not be able to tell the top of a five-storey building from the bottom. That does not cut it when the goal is to record even subtle changes as ice sheets melt or sea ice thins.

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To reach the needed precision of a fraction of a billionth of a second, engineers at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, had to develop and build their own series of clocks on the satellite’s instrument — the Advanced Topographic Laser Altimeter System, or ATLAS.

This timing accuracy will allow researchers to measure heights to within about two inches, NASA said in a statement on Monday.

ATLAS pulses beams of laser light to the ground and then records how long it takes each photon to return.

This time, when combined with the speed of light, tells researchers how far the laser light travelled.

This flight distance, combined with the knowledge of exactly where the satellite is in space, tells researchers the height of the Earth’s surface below.

The stopwatch that measures flight time starts with each pulse of ATLAS’s laser. As billions of photons stream down to Earth, a few are directed to a start pulse detector that triggers the timer, said Phil Luers, Deputy Instrument System Engineer with the ATLAS instrument. (IANS)

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NASA Partnering with 10 Start-ups to Develop New Technologies For Space

"Industry is developing new technologies rapidly, using new tools and methods in software development and other areas,"

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NASA researchers have created the atmosphere of a super-hot planet outside our solar system, here on Earth. Pixabay

NASA is inviting applications from start-ups to take part in a three-month pilot programme to develop new technologies for space.

Applications will be accepted till April 7 and a total of 10 companies will be selected for the programme, the US space agency said.

The accelerator programme will focus on technologies that can be applied to space — including geospatial analytics, digital design coupled to advanced manufacturing, autonomous systems, applied Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML).

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NASA Administrator James Bridenstine delivers remarks as he tours the NASA Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. VOA

“We want to assist these companies in developing their own technologies and becoming commercial successes. NASA will also benefit by collaborating with these companies,” said Tom Cwik, Manager of the Space Technology Office at Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California.

Based in Los Angeles, the accelerator programme begins on July 15. After developing their concepts and business plans over a three-month period, the teams will then pitch their results to the NASA community, co-sponsors and private investors at a demo day in October, NASA said.

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“Industry is developing new technologies rapidly, using new tools and methods in software development and other areas,” said Cwik.

“It’s incumbent upon us to learn from developments in industry and contribute our vast expertise in technology as we prepare to use them in our future missions,” Cwik added. (IANS)