China's XPNAV 1 To Use X-Ray Pulsars For Navigation
China just launched XPNAV 1, the world's first x-ray navigation system. The X-ray Pulsar Navigation satellite, which the country launched on Nov. 10 aboard a solid-fueled Long March 11 rocket from the Jiuquan Space Launch Center in the Gobi Desert,
(XPNAV-1 X-ray Pulsar Navigation satellite)
The navigation system relies on x-ray pulsars found in systems with two stars. Essentially a dense neutron star's strong magnetic field pulls in gas from the other star, and when the gas impacts the neutron star, it generates a strong X-ray hotspot. If the neutron star's spin axis and magnetic axis are not aligned, as the neutron star rotates, pulses will be generated as the X-ray hotspots move in and out of the observer's view. This turns out to be a useful tool for navigation.
Millisecond pulsars generate x-ray pulses at such short intervals, that by measuring the time differential from multiple known pulsars (like a GPS using pulsars instead of satellites), a spacecraft can determine its location in the solar system within 5 kilometers (3.1 miles), which is pretty good for deep space. The trick is to find pulsars that provide pulses at a consistent pace; x-ray pulsars often speed up or slow down the frequency of their bursts.
If all goes as planned, the XPNAV 1 will both gather data to build the pulsar x-ray database and then be able to use that data to independently verify its location.
Science fiction writers of the 1950's were fascinated by this idea. In his 1952 story Troubled Star, George O. Smith described space beacons:
"And what is a beacon?"
"It is a phenomenon caused by the Doppler effect when traveling at galactic speeds. In this case, when coming through this rift at fifteen hundred light years per hour, a three-day variable star will appear to the observer as a rapidly blinking light..."
"We use the three-day variable to denote the galactic travel lanes. Very effective.
(Read more about Smith's space beacon)
In his 1956 story The Repairman, Harry Harrison described a hyperspace beacon:
Every beacon has a code signal as part of its radiation and represents a measurable point in hyperspace. Triangulation and quadrature works for navigation - only it follows its own rules.
For a hyperspace jump, you need at least four beacons for an accurate fix.
(Read more about Harrison's hyperspace beacon)
In 1980, Star Trek Maps was published; it consisted of a set of four maps and an Introduction to Navigation booklet. In the accompanying pamphlet, they described the standard navigation system using "sub-space beacons", and then described the emergency system that used pulsars as a GPS system. It included the real equations as well.
(Star Trek Maps: galactic coordinates and basic vector calculus)
XPNAV 1 is the world's first x-ray navigation system to go in orbit. NASA's Station Explorer for X-ray Timing and Navigation Technology (SEXTANT), will not be installed on the ISS until 2017.
Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 11/15/2016)
Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.
| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |
you like to contribute a story tip?
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add
Comment/Join discussion ( 0 )
Related News Stories -
Russian Space Garden
'We saw the gardens, flooded with artificial sunlight...' - Harley S. Aldinger, 1932.
Make Space Tools On The Spot (Like Moties)
'A moment ago it was squeezing silver toothpaste in a ribbon...' - Niven and Pournelle, 1974.
Bacteria Behave Differently In Space
'The Republic struggled to control its Sours...' - Bruce Sterling, 1985.
SpaceX Spacesuit Design Transmitted By Elon Musk
Welcome, SpaceX, to the club of space suit imaginers and makers.
Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!)
is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for
the Invention Category that interests
you, the Glossary, the Invention
Timeline, or see what's New.
Dubai Scorpion Police Hoverbike Ready To Pull Young Kirk Over
'Is there a problem, officer?'
HEXA Robotic Help For Plants
Then some unknown race had chanced upon the dreamers and decided to "help them out."
Korean Tesla Model S Video 'Excelsior' Is Indeed Our Motto
'Improving man by bringing him close to Nature, while they combine the sensations of coasting with the interest of seeing the country well...'
DIY Robot Shoots You In The Face
'...there were automatic guns that fired ligamine darts.'
A Bayesian Approach to Safe Imitation Learning For AIs and Robots
Um, how about that pension for the humans who serve as the models for robot behavior?
Qoobo Headless Robotic Therapy Cat Was Anne McCaffrey's Idea
'...used as surrogates in intense dependency cases.'
Autonomous Cars Talk To Each Other At MCity
'My cars talk to one another.'
PUFFER Robots - From Philip K DIck's Second Variety?
'Across the ground something small and metallic came, flashing in the dull sunlight of midday.'
Russian Space Garden
'We saw the gardens, flooded with artificial sunlight...'
Targeted Neuroplasticity Training For 'Downloading Skills'
'I know kung-fu.'
U of M's MCity To Feature Asimov's Automatobuses
Should you turn autonomous buses off?
Crazyflie Drone Swarm Technology
'...Programmed to hang in space in a hexagonal grid pattern.'
Our GodBot, Who Art In Cyberspace
Vaal hungers! We must serve him.
easyJet Short-Haul Electric Jets
Have a little faith, will you? They're working on it.
Meet Assist-e Honda's Self-Balancing Motorcycle
'He had never ridden any motorized device that lacked onboard steering and balance systems...'
Kalashnikov's One-Seater Hovercraft
Not for windy days.
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories