A high-precision timer built by hand in the Latvian startup Eventech laboratory is currently being used to track satellites.
This year, the company won a contract from the European Space Agency (ESA) to develop a timer that will study the possibility of reorienting an asteroid before it is too close to our planet to be comfortable.
NASA plans to launch the first part of the Asteroid Impact and Deformation Assessment (AIDA) mission on July 22, 2021, using SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket belonging to technology tycoon Elon Musk. Directional testing (DART).
A 500 kg (1100 lb) probe equipped with a camera will fly to the asteroid named Didymos and crash into it, attempting to blow it away from its current course, allowing it to pass through the Earth sometime in 2123.
Eventech’s deep space event timer is under development for the follow-up HERA mission, which is scheduled to start in five years to determine whether the first mission was successful.
Eventech engineer Imants Pulkstenis told AFP in the laboratory: “The new technology we will use on the second ESA spacecraft named HERA will measure whether the first impact has deviated the kilometer-sized Didymos from its previous course. This avoids harm to humans,” Eventech engineer Imants Pulkstenis told AFP in the laboratory.
He added: “It’s more interesting to go boldly to an unprecedented level instead of making some ordinary consumer electronics to make huge profits.” He borrowed the slogan of the famous 1960s science fiction TV series Star Trek.
Eventech’s timepiece is part of the tradition of space technology in the Baltic States, dating back to the first artificial satellite that launched the artificial satellite “Sputnik” (artificial earth satellite) in 1957.
They measure the time it takes for a light pulse to travel on the track and return.
Eventech equipment can record measurement results in picoseconds or one trillionth of a second, which allows astronomers to convert time measurements into distance measurements with an accuracy of up to 2 mm.
Send timer to deep space
Approximately 10 timepieces are produced every year and they are used by observatories all over the world.
They track the increasingly crowded atmosphere on Earth, which is flooded with new private satellites as well as traditional scientific and military satellites.
“Tracking them all requires tools,” said Pavels Razmajevs, Eventech’s chief operating officer.
Although Latvia only officially became a full member of ESA in 2016, Latvian engineers have been tracking satellites since the Soviet era.
The University of Latvia even has its own satellite laser ranging station in the forest south of Riga.
Eventech engineers stated that they use analog components as much as possible, mainly because microchips require nanoseconds to calculate the signal, which is too long for incoming measurements in picoseconds.
Even the physical length of the motherboard affects the speed at which signals can travel from one circuit to another.
When these timers are used for calculations on Earth, in another corner of the same laboratory, a different device for deep space missions is being developed to track planetary objects from mobile space probes.
Pulkstenis said: “There is no GPS data coverage on other planets, so you must carry your own accuracy with you.”
Developing equipment for deep space will be a complex task, but Eventech engineers are very happy.
Pulkstenis said: “Our latest technology must be able to withstand extreme temperatures and extreme cosmic radiation in space.” “This is an interesting challenge.”
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