Articles | Volume 2, issue 2
Research article
19 Dec 2013
Research article |  | 19 Dec 2013

Enhanced timing accuracy for Cluster data

K. H. Yearby, S. N. Walker, and M. A. Balikhin

Abstract. The standard timing accuracy for the Cluster mission is ±2 ms. However for inter-spacecraft comparisons of waveform data, a much higher accuracy is needed – for example a timing error of 1 ms results in a phase error of 65° for a signal at 180 Hz. Most Cluster data are recorded on an onboard solid state recorder and time-stamped using an onboard clock which is calibrated to coordinated universal time (UTC). Until recently, the error of this onboard clock was allowed to increase to the ±2 ms limit before a new calibration was applied. However, the timing error for real-time data is estimated to be only ~11 μs, so these data may be used to prepare a time correction data set which allows the standard timing accuracy to be improved considerably. This paper describes the details of the preparation and validation of this data set. Two independent source data sets are used: telemetry to European Space Agency (ESA) ground stations supporting the main operations of the Cluster spacecraft, and the real-time telemetry to the NASA Deep Space Network (DSN) stations supporting the Wide-Band Plasma Wave Investigation.