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NAM2012 - All Presentation Details

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Deep Spacecraft Navigation With Pulsars

Author: Werner Becker

Max-Planck-Institut für extraterrestrische Physik

Co-Authors: M.G. Bernhardt(Max-Planck-Institut für extraterrestrische Physik, Giessenbachstrasse, 85741 Garching, Germany)

Session: HE3: Multi-wavelength observations of compact objects

Presentation type: Talk      12:30  Friday 30th 11:45-13:15 


An external reference system suitable for deep space navigation can be defined by making use of the characteristic signals emitted from strongly magnetized and fast spinning neutron stars, called pulsars. Their periodic signals have timing stabilities comparable to atomic clocks and provide characteristic temporal signatures that can be used as natural navigation beacons, quite similar to the use of GPS satellites for navigation on Earth. By comparing pulse arrival times measured on-board the spacecraft with predicted pulse arrivals at a reference location, the spacecraft position can be determined with an accuracy of a few kilometers, autonomously and everywhere in the solar system and beyond. The unique properties of pulsars make clear already today that such a navigation system will have its application in future astronautics. We report on the current development status of this novel technology.

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