In a recent study, two proven technologies have been combined to create a promising new technology that could meet future navigational challenges in deep space.
It also may help demonstrate — for the first time — X-ray communications in space, a capability that would allow the transmission of gigabits per second throughout the solar system.
The new technology, called NavCube, combines NASA’s SpaceCube, a reconfigurable and fast flight computing platform, with the Navigator Global Positioning System (GPS) flight receiver.
Navigator GPS uses the GPS signal to enable on-board autonomous positioning, navigation, and timing even in weak-signal areas.
Considered one of the enabling technologies on the agency’s flagship Magnetospheric Multi-Scale (MMS) mission, Navigator GPS recently was included in the Guiness World Records for the highest-altitude GPS fix.
“NavCube is more flexible than previous Navigators because of its ample computational resources.”
“Also, because we added the ability to process modernized GPS signals, NavCube has the potential to significantly enhance performance at low, and especially, high altitudes, potentially even to the area of space near the moon and lunar orbits,” said Luke Winternitz, Navigator’s chief architect.
“This new product is a poster child for our research and development efforts,” added Peter Hughes, the chief technology officer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt.
“Both SpaceCube and Navigator already proved their value to NASA. Now the combination of the two gives NASA another tool. Also, the possibility that it might help demonstrate X-ray communications in space — a technology in which we also have interest — is particularly exciting.”
This promising technology is slated to fly as one of several experiments on an external pallet to be deployed on the International Space Station in 2018.
One NavCube unit will demonstrate its navigation and processing capabilities afforded by the merger of its technological parents, while the other could potentially provide precise timing data for an experiment demonstrating X-ray communications, or XCOM.
News source: NASA.
Figure legend: This Knowridge.com image is credited to NASA/W. Hrybyk.