X-ray pulsar-based navigation

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X-ray pulsar-based navigation and timing (XNAV) is a theoretical navigation technique whereby the periodic X-ray signals emitted from pulsars are used to determine the location of a spacecraft in deep space. A spacecraft using XNAV would compare received X-ray signals with a database of known pulsar frequencies and locations. Similar to GPS, this comparison would allow the spacecraft to triangulate its position accurately (±5km). The advantage of using X-ray signals over radio waves is that X-ray telescopes can be made smaller and lighter. [1][2]

SEXTANT (Station Explorer for X-ray Timing and Navigation Technology) is a NASA funded mission being developed at the Goddard Space Flight Center that will test XNAV on-orbit on-board the International Space Station. It is currently planned for October 2016. [3][4]


  1. ^ Commissariat, Tushna (4 June 2014). "Pulsars map the way for space missions". Physics World. 
  2. ^ "An Interplanetary GPS Using Pulsar Signals". MIT Technology Review. 23 May 2013. 
  3. ^ "NASA Builds Unusual Testbed for Analyzing X-ray Navigation Technologies". NASA. 20 May 2013. 
  4. ^ "The Neutron star Interior Composition ExploreR Mission". NASA. Retrieved 13 November 2014. 

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