Real-Time Time Metrology Using Space Geodetic Methods
Two main objectives in time and frequency metrology are the realization of the SI unit of time, and the construction and dissemination of atomic time scales based on the SI second. This thesis is mainly concerned with the latter of the two and has investigated the characteristics of space geodetic time and frequency comparison methods. Furthermore, strategies have been developed that increase the accuracy and redundancy of time comparisons and reduce the latency between the time measurement process and the application of the results.
International time keeping is a global effort resulting from the cooperation of many national partners. National Metrology Institutes use different space based systems to compare their local realizations of UTC, UTC(k) with each other and contribute with clock measurements to the formation of TAI. Time measurements with Global Navigation Satellite Systems, GNSS, are used with robust and powerful methods that are currently the dominant tool for time comparisons over long distances. The use of carrier phase observation allows users to exploit the full capabilities of GNSS. The nature of carrier phase ambiguities was studied and its effect on precise time comparisons was determined. This has resulted in the development of real-time methods that allow to determine relative time differences between receiver clocks with link instabilities in the order of one part in 1e15 for time intervals of one day.
Distributed time scales are a means for increasing the redundancy in timekeeping by establishing a grid of national nodes with similar capabilities. For the accuracy of the necessary remote time comparisons the repeated calibration of the interconnecting time links is an essential exercise. Carrier phase observations are utilized in a novel method of a GNSS aided clock transport, which allows the calibration of time links with sub-nanosecond accuracy. When several link techniques are implemented, the combination of the links increases the accuracy and redundancy in time comparisons between the national nodes. Kalman filtering is used in a method that allows to combine multiple time links in real-time.
Diversity of time and frequency transfer methods is important in order to avoid a dependence on a single technique. The capabilities of geodetic Very Long Baseline Interferometry, VLBI, have been studied as a possible alternative for comparisons over long distances. VLBI performs on a similar level as GNSS carrier phase, and together they can be used to improve the precision of the intercontinental frequency comparisons. In the future continuously operated geodetic VLBI has the potential to contribute to international time metrology.
time link combination