ISRO Develops ‘Made in India’ Atomic Clock to Establish Its Own GPS in Navigation Satellites
ISRO (Image: PTI)

Chennai, May 8: In a major development, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has developed an atomic clock which will be used in navigation satellites. The atomic clocks will help the Indian space agency to measure precise location data. At present, the space agency currently imports atomic clocks from European aerospace manufacturer Astrium for its navigation satellites.

According to a report by TOI, all the seven navigation satellites launched earlier as part of Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS) or NaVIC has three imported Rubidium atomic clocks each. Meanwhile, Tapan Misra, director of Ahmedabad-based Space Applications Centre (SAC) was quoted by TOI saying, “SAC has developed an indigenous atomic clock and this clock is currently undergoing a series of qualification tests. Once it successfully clears all tests, the desi atomic clock will be used in an experimental navigation satellite to test its accuracy and durability in space.”

What is the use of the atomic clock

With the development of the desi atomic clock, ISRO has become one of the few space organisations in the world which have gained the capability to develop this highly sophisticated technology. The clock is believed to easily work for more than five years. The SAC Director said that the design and technology of the imported atomic clock are still not known. He said that it has been developed based on our designs and specifications and is as good as the imported one.

Misra informed that atomic clocks in all the seven satellites launched earlier are synchronised. The time difference between the atomic clocks of different satellites positioned at different orbits are used to measure the accurate positioning of a navigation receiver or an object on the Earth, he told TOI.

What happens when the clock stops functioning

Reports inform that when the atomic clock malfunctions, the time difference calculated between it and other clocks is not accurate which, in turn, gives inaccurate positioning of an object.  Apart from the atomic clock, a navigation satellite also has crystal clocks, but they are not accurate as atomic clocks.

Why does ISRO need to develop own atomic clocks?

It must be noted that 9 out of the 21 imported clocks in the seven-satellite fleet have failed.  The space agency has concerns that if more clocks fail, the entire Rs. 1,400-crore project will be ruined. If the atomic clock malfunctions, a backup satellite need to be launched.

In the last month, ISRO sent the IRNSS-1I navigation satellite to replace the faulty IRNSS-1A navigation satellite in the IRNSS. ts three atomic clocks had stopped working two years ago. IRNSS-1A was India's first navigation satellite under the IRNSS.