China Launches X-Ray Pulsar Satellite To Make Deep Space Navigation Easier, More Reliable

First Posted: Nov 11, 2016 04:40 AM EST

China's fast-growing and ambitious space program made a big leap forward on Thursday after the launch of five small satellites. The launch included the X-ray Pulsar Navigation satellite that can help spaceships headed toward deep space navigate better.

NASA Spaceflight reports that the X-ray Pulsar, designed and developed by the Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation Fifth Academy, was aboard the Long March-11 solid fuel rocket launched from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center.

The X-ray Pulsar satellite is designed to capture X-ray signals transmitted by pulsars. By accurately mapping these signals, the satellite can help spacecraft determine their locations in deep space. This essentially eliminates the several-hour delays resulting from the use of ground-based navigation systems such as European Space Tracking network or Deep Space Network.

It carries two separate detectors to assess own response to the background noise of the universe, highlight pulsar contours and build a new database for pulsar navigation.

Worth noting, some pulsars emit radiations with an absolution precision like that guaranteed by atomic clocks. As a result, in certain scenarios, the pulsar X-ray takes far less time to estimate a location. This also facilitates more precision in the measurement of the coordinates of a spacecraft's whereabouts.

The X-ray Pulsar satellite will be detecting emissions from 26 nearby pulsars, said chief scientist Shuai Ping, adding that the database is likely to be completed within 10 years.

Meanwhile, also aboard the Long March-11 rocket launched on Thursday were three Lishui-1, as well as the Xaiaoxiang-1 satellites.

The Lishui-1 satellites, designed by the Zhejiang LiTong Electronic Technology Co., Ltd, are commercial remote sensing satellites, while the Xiaoxiang-1 is a 6U CubeSat weighing approximately 8 kg. It was designed, developed and manufactured by the Changsha Gaoxinqu Tianyi Research Institute to gauge the performance of new stabilization systems for imaging equipment installed in satellites.

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