XNavSat Satellite

Name XNavSat
Spacecraft type CubeSat
Units or mass 6U
Status not launched, expected in 2025
Launcher not launched
Entity name Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology
Institution University
Entity Academic / Education
Nation India

Demonstrate autonomous navigation by using millisecond X-ray pulsars.


Navigation based on X-ray pulsars was rst suggested in 1981 for deep space navigation as an alternative to the conventional Deep Space Network (DSN) which is inaccurate at large distances from the Earth. This idea was recently demonstrated using the NICER/SEXTANT instrument onboard the ISS.

X-ray pulsar-based navigation is of great interest as it eliminates the reliance on Earth-based systems, and is yet to be implemented as an autonomous navigation system for deep space missions. For the purpose of navigation, X-ray millisecond pulsars are the most appropriate celestial sources. They emit unique, stable and periodic radiation that exhibits high timing stability comparable to atomic clocks, thus making them suitable as navigational beacons.

The phase di erence between the pulsar's pulse obtained at the satellite and a reference pro le is tied to the position of the satellite with respect to the chosen reference location, typically considered to be the Solar System Barycenter (SSB). Measurements from at least four pulsars are required to estimate the 3D position, velocity, and time of the satellite. This article describes a small satellite mission concept being developed at the Small-spacecraft Systems and PAyload CEntre (SSPACE) at the Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology (IIST) that aims to demonstrate navigation in space using X-ray millisecond pulsars.

The satellite contains a miniaturized X-ray timing detector payload, which extracts accurate pulse pro les from detected pulsar signals. A mission-speci fic algorithm is developed that uses measurements from a single pulsar to estimate only the true anomaly of the satellite, since given the orbital insertion, the other orbital elements are assumed to be stationary.

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Last modified: 2024-05-29

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