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Time synchronization via lunar radar

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1 Author(s)
W. H. Higa ; California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif.

The advent of round-trip radar measurements has permitted the determination of the ranges to the nearby planets with greater precision than was previously possible. When the distances to the planets are known with high precision, the propagation delay for electromagnetic waves reflected by the planets may be calculated and used to synchronize remotely located clocks. Details basic to the operation of a lunar radar indicate a capability for clock synchronization to ±20 µs. One of the design goals for this system was to achieve a simple semiautomatic receiver for remotely located tracking stations. The lunar radar system is in operational use for deep space tracking at Jet Propulsion Laboratory and synchronizes five world-wide tracking stations with a master clock at Goldstone, Calif. Computers are programmed to correct the Goldstone transmissions for transit time delay and Doppler shifts so as to be received on time at the tracking stations; this dictates that only one station can be synchronized at a given time period and that the moon must be simultaneously visible to both the transmitter and receiver for a minimum time of 10 min. Both advantages and limitations of the system are given. Finally, an experiment is described which has detected the effects of lunar topography and libration on radar results; a monthly cyclic effect in time synchronization of about ± 6 µs is shown.

Published in:

Proceedings of the IEEE  (Volume:60 ,  Issue: 5 )