Smithsonian museums continue to be closed to support the effort to contain the spread of COVID-19. Read a message from our director, and check our website and social media for updates.

Goldstone Quartz Oscillator

Goldstone Quartz Oscillator

<< >>
Usage conditions apply
Precision frequency standards provide crucial reference radio signals for deep space tracking and navigation. This instrument was installed in 1961 at NASA’s Goldstone tracking station in the Mojave Desert, approximately 45 miles from Barstow, California for the earliest Ranger missions exploring the moon. It provided reference radio frequencies between the station and the spacecraft. It became a secondary frequency standard (see strip of tape on object) when rubidium frequency standards, more precise than the quartz standard, were introduced in 1962 for the Mariner missions.
This frequency standard was made by Sulzer Laboratories Inc., Rockville, MD, about 1960. It contains two Model 5A oscillators, serial no. 410 and 482 in a standard electronics rack mount. The output signals are 5 MHz, 1 MHz and 500 kHz. Each oscillator uses the Bliley BG61AH-5, 5-MHz AT-cut resonator.
Peter Sulzer invented the first fully transistorized quartz oscillator. The Model 5A is a commercial standard patterned after the AN/URQ-10 developed for military use.
1. Norton, J., J. Cloeren and P. Sulzer, "Brief History of the Development of Ultra Precise Oscillators for Ground and Space Applications," Proceedings of IEEE 50thFrequency Control Symposium (1996), 47-57.
Object Name
quartz oscillator
date made
ca 1960
United States: California, Mojave Desert
Physical Description
metal (overall material)
plastic (overall material)
overall: 7 in x 19 in x 17 1/8 in; 17.78 cm x 48.26 cm x 43.4975 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Transfer from NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory
See more items in
Work and Industry: Mechanisms
Measuring & Mapping
Time and Navigation
Time and Navigation, National Air and Space Museum
Data Source
National Museum of American History
Nominate this object for photography.   

Our collection database is a work in progress. We may update this record based on further research and review. Learn more about our approach to sharing our collection online.

If you would like to know how you can use content on this page, see the Smithsonian's Terms of Use. If you need to request an image for publication or other use, please visit Rights and Reproductions.


Add a comment about this object