Optical cavity for next generation timing and navigation

Lead Participant: Npl Management Limited


Clocks power the global positioning system (GPS) – a constellation of satellites orbiting the earth, each satellite having an ensemble of atomic clocks on-board. A Sat. Nav. handset receives timing signals from these clocks enabling it to pinpoint your position. Currently, the "ticks" of atomic clocks are governed by microwave oscillators. The next generation of atomic clocks will be governed by optical oscillators. Light-waves oscillate 100,000 times faster than micro-waves. With so many more ticks per second, an optical clock will be more accurate and will deliver its timing signal faster. We have invented a "rugged" optical oscillator for operation in space that can be shaken, turned upside-down and still keep time! UK and International patent applications have been made for this world-leading technology. Support from the Technology Strategy Board will pave the way for major investment from the European Space Agency leading to manufacture in the UK.

Lead Participant

Project Cost

Grant Offer

Npl Management Limited, TEDDINGTON £130,649 £ 65,324


Airbus Defence And Space Limited, Stevenage £60,033 £ 30,000


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