Local Distribution and Calibration of Timing Signals at NIST

J. Savory and S. Romisch, L. Hernandez, K. Maurer

Abstract: The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) timescale produces a real-time realization of UTC(NIST) in the form of a pulse-per-second (PPS) time signal and a 5 MHz frequency reference. UTC(NIST) contributes to UTC (Coordinate Universal Time) using TWSTFT (Two-Way Satellite Time and Frequency Transfer) and common-view GPS (Global Positioning System) techniques. The NIST timing signal is also disseminated to the international and domestic communities using various other techniques: NIST Automated Computer Time Service (ACTS), Internet Time Service (ITS) and NIST Time Measurement and Analysis Service (TMAS). The accuracy of NIST contribution to UTC and of the dissemination of the NIST PPS time signal depends upon the quality of the calibration of the time delay between each user and the UTC(NIST) reference point. Hardware constraints, spatial constraints, and in some cases simple convenience, require that the physical input to the transfer and dissemination equipment be distributed throughout the NIST campus. A robust on-campus timing distribution and calibration system is required to ensure the accuracy and stability of these signals: for example, the current error budget for a typical time transfer calibration requires local delays to be known to an uncertainty of less than 200 ps. We utilize a clock trip calibration protocol to measure the delays introduced by the local time distribution system at NIST: a clock trip involves measuring the time difference between the UTC(NIST) reference point and a travelling clock, then transporting the travelling clock to a secondary reference point where another measurement of the time difference is performed. Clock trips are advantageous as they are a nonintrusive measurement of the full system delay. To achieve calibrations with an accuracy on the order 100 ps, we have developed a means to transport a cesium clock between remote locations on site with minimal vibration and an analysis protocol to maximize the information acquired by each clock trip. We will introduce the system used to distribute time signals at NIST, the hardware and protocol we have developed to calibrate secondary timing reference points, and data we have collected based on their implementation.
Published in: Proceedings of the 48th Annual Precise Time and Time Interval Systems and Applications Meeting
January 30 - 2, 2017
Hyatt Regency Monterey
Monterey, California
Pages: 326 - 334
Cite this article: Savory, J., Romisch, S., Hernandez, L., Maurer, K., "Local Distribution and Calibration of Timing Signals at NIST," Proceedings of the 48th Annual Precise Time and Time Interval Systems and Applications Meeting, Monterey, California, January 2017, pp. 326-334.
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