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 -
NASA's Electric Motor Scooter
'...all the [lunar] prospectors took bicycles along as a matter of course'
Extremophile Microbe Loves Space Rocks
'... designed for rooting in the metal make-up of the asteroids for vital elements.' - F.E. Hardart, 1941.
Space Domes Over-rated? Science Fiction Authors Have Answers
'This was to be roofed over, sealed, and an atmosphere provided...' - Robert Heinlein, 1939.
NASA 'Broomstick' Recalls SciFi Ideas
'The appearance was enough like a giant witch's broom to justify the nickname.' - Robert Heinlein, 1942.
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.
Via Virtual Reality, Mother Encounters Deceased Daughter
'But that barrier was going to melt away someday soon. The transhumanists had promised...'
Clothes That Do Photosyntheisis
'Clothes are no longer made from dead fibers of fixed color and texture...'
Stratuscent Electronic Nose
'It's picking up diphenyl compounds and tetra hydrocarbons.'
CIMON Companion Robot For Space Station Astronauts
'... in some departments their power is absolute.'
Qbit Robot Bartender Also Makes Coffee
'...he sipped the cognac that the robot bartender handed him.'
Moving Desks Not SciFi After All
'Charged with hope, he zipped from stack to stack...'
Cruise Autonomous Car Drives Aimlessly For An Hour
Convincing video shows progress (and limitations).
Fast Charging A Bus In 20 Seconds
'... in almost every town and village.'
Realistic Translation With The Waverly Labs Ambassador
'The speech patterns you actually hear decode the brainwave matrix which has been fed into your mind by your Babel fish.'
Biotech Firms Raised $Millions For Anti-Agathics (Longevity Drugs)
'Against Death doth no simple grow.'
Out-Of-Work Blue Collar Robots Need Your Help
'His legs relaxed with a rattle as he cut off all power below his waist... and ran his eye down the Help Wanted - Robot column...'
The Dawn Of Orbiting Manufacturing In 2020?
'It can be mass-produced only in the orbiting factories.'
Smart Contact Lenses Charges With 3D Printed Antenna
'He realized that it was not quite a clear lens.'
Segway S-Pod Fulfills Dire 1928 SciFi Prophecy
'Noiselessly, on rubber-tired wheels, they journeyed down the long aisles...'
Physicist Inspired By SciFi And Seeing Back In Time
'Here is the chronoscope... Scansion depends upon a special curved field...'
Airbnb Has AI Psychiatrist Looking At Your Facebook
'It's illegal to hold back information during a psyche test.'
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories