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, Murray Leinster 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 -
The Space Suit As Personal Spaceship
'Darn clever, these suits...' - Jack Williamson, 1933.
Pent-Up NASA Scientists Simulate Life On Mars
'That gives it complete isolation.' - David H. Keller, 1932.
Dust Movement On The Moon, Saturn's Rings Solved
'...The dust normally on the surface picks up and keeps a charge.' - Hal Clement, 1956.
Axiom - The World's First Private Space Station?
'So Webb Foster had built his space laboratory... It was a great crystal sphere, a thousand feet in diameter.' - Nat Schachner, 1937.
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.
Keith Laumer's Bolo Autonomous Tanks Right On Schedule
'I cannot lie idle under attack.'
When Computers Develop Their Own Language, Will They Talk To Us?
'The curious absent look of a robot talking on the TBR circuits - the Talk Between Robots radio...'
LipNet Reads Lips - Until Disconnected, That Is
'We'd have to cut his higher brain functions... I'm not sure what [HAL} would think about that.'
Eterni.me - To Skype With The Dead
'Nothing... left of Jeserac but a galaxy of electrons frozen in the heart of a crystal.'
Wearable MRI Is Former Occulus/Facebook Exec's New Project
'Your cephalochromoscope... that you always turn on and play when you get home...'
Ford Stratasys Infinte Build 3D Printer
'He proudly indicated his Buick... Almost as good as the original it was printed from...'
The Space Suit As Personal Spaceship
'Darn clever, these suits...'
Dune Fans! Your God Emperor Is Ready
'If one held a sandtrout in the hand, smoothing it over your skin, it formed a living glove.'
Robot Strolls Field, Examines EVERY Plant
'The great machines that did the work ... required but a few dozen men to cultivate an entire county.'
Sweden Outlaws Drones
'An eye that could not only see, but fly, roam, travel at speeds and in directions to suit its operator...'
Wear Your Self-Powered Generator
'It's basically a micro-sandwich...'
TITAN-III Spider Robot Is WAY Too Quick (Video)
'My little friends can find you wherever you go!'
Bill Gates Suggests Tax On Robots
'A worker replaced by a nubot that 'appears or pretends to be human' had to be compensated...'
Handle, New Wheeled Hopping Robot
'the hopper sprang thirty feet into the air...'
Matrix Sentinel Ancestor, The Pipe Inspector Robot From Krakow
Watch out, Keanu!
Auto-Focus Smart Glasses Have Liquid Lenses
'Hufhuf oil held in static tension by an enclosing force field within a viewing tube...'
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories