SmartSat Precision Timing

A utilisation study on precision timing for space-based applications.

The Challenge

Precision timing is a key capability underpinning the operational efficiency of society’s most critical infrastructure and is making new applications possible. Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) satellites carrying atomic clocks have contributed to delivering a global timing capability with high levels of accuracy and stability. The increasing demand for GNSS independent timing solutions, as well as the potential for optical clocks offering higher levels of timing accuracy and stability demands a study to address the potential applications and technologies required for success in these areas. This project will investigate what new opportunities and resilience a compact, high accuracy clock for use on small satellites would enable for a broad range of precision timing applications. 


The project partners are SmartSat CRC and the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT). 

The Solution 

SmartSat has been undertaking another project entitled “Compact Clock for Small Satellite Applications” led by a team at the University of Adelaide which aims to develop and provide an early prototype of a compact, high accuracy clock that will be able to fly on small satellites (typically 1m3, 100-200kg class). This utilisation study was commissioned to investigate the broader context for the compact clock project. This project investigated the new opportunities that a precision space-based clock could enable for a broad range of precision timing applications. The specific deliverables are case study analysis and system modelling to identify opportunities and trade-offs based on several use cases, including, but not limited to one or more of: 

  • Smart Cities/Agriculture/Mining where automation requires precise time (and position).  
  • Electronic Warfare especially, from distributed systems, where a common time reference enables precise comparison of signals collected at different locations. 
  • Resilient timing distribution as a backup to current systems (e.g., GNSS PNT).  
  • Solar system navigation for one-way navigation signals leveraging a common time base.  
  • Scientific space experiments requiring accurate timing. 

This project delivered a scoping study highlighting new opportunities for a broad range of precision timing applications to provide a clearer understanding on user demand for precision timing. The investigation was carried out to seek applications in relevant industry sectors that could potentially make use of this enhanced timing capacity. The impact of this project will be to shape high level thinking within the SmartSat CRC. The long-term objective is to develop new technologies and capabilities that leverages a timing solution that is highly accurate, stable and independent of GNSS.  


Contact us at or Project Leader Eldar Rubinov at