"These awards," said Bruce Montgomery, president, Syntonics, "will result in the next generation of precision oscillators. While the federal government is our initial sponsor, industry stands to gain significant benefits from these efforts, including commercially available ultrastable oscillators with reduced mass, volume, and power requirements for a wide variety of spacecraft."
The NASA contract is part of the Agency's Space Base Technology Project. Syntonics and its teammate the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), were awarded nearly $900,000 to develop a prototype for a radically smaller, lighter ultrastable oscillator (USO) for micro/nano spacecraft applications. The micro-USO will provide precision timing, spectral purity, and frequency stability approaching today's USO technology, but with reduced weight and power as compared to existing devices. It is anticipated that the micro-USOs will become the preferred frequency reference for next-generation small satellite applications including high-performance communications, precision navigation, and formation flying.
Until now, investment in smaller oscillators has lagged, according to Montgomery. However the NASA award is part of a broader effort by Syntonics and APL to ensure the timing devices keep pace with requirements. "Over the next 18 months, Syntonics will be spending over $1 million on research and development specifically intended to advance space oscillator technology," he stated. "Our USO technology was originally developed by APL 40 years ago. Many advances have been made since that time, but this contract represents the most significant effort in this technology in the last decade."
The U.S. Navy also has selected Syntonics for a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract to develop a small precision time and frequency source for use onboard ships and aircraft. Syntonics' Precision Intermediate Computer-controlled Oscillator (PICO) was selected for up to $100,000 in Phase I funding. The Phase 1 effort includes a six-month feasibility study and an optional three-month brassboard development activity. PICO, based on a quartz oscillator concept, will provide highly accurate clock output for up to several hours. "Quartz oscillators are the most precise timing devices available up to about 20 minutes," Montgomery noted. "With PICO we will extend the useful range to a few hours, which begins to compete with atomic clocks, but with a solution that is smaller, more reliable, and less expensive. Clearly, Syntonics is driving oscillator technology forward," he added. "We're becoming recognized as the company to go to for advanced time and frequency development. "
Syntonics, the space oscillator specialist, is a privately held company, developing high performance, space-qualified time and frequency electronics. The company holds the exclusive license to sell products based on APL's ultrastable oscillator and related technologies. APL pioneered ultrastable oscillator development more than 40 years ago and has remained a leading innovator in the field. Syntonics, founded in 1999, is the Laboratory's first commercial spin-off company.
For more information on Syntonics and its products, please see the company's website at www.SyntonicsCorp.com.