NASA SBIR 2005 Solicitation


SUBTOPIC TITLE:Precision Navigation and Tracking
PROPOSAL TITLE:X-Ray Pulsar Based Navigation and Time Determination

SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN (Firm Name, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Microcosm, Inc.
401 Coral Circle
El Segundo ,CA 90245 - 4622
(310) 726 - 4100

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR/PROJECT MANAGER (Name, E-mail, Mail Address, City/State/Zip, Phone)
Paul   Graven
401 Coral Circle
El Segundo, CA  90245 -4622
(310) 726 - 4100

DARPA recently initiated the XNAV program to undertake development of GPS independent, precision navigation and time determination based on observations of certain extremely stable millisecond X-ray pulsars for near Earth military applications. The groundwork for this effort comes from more than a decade of high-energy astrophysics research at NRL and data from space-based surveys of galactic X-ray sources (e.g., ARGOS/USA, Chandra). These signals can be exploited as a "natural GPS" to provide position information and an extremely stable time reference.
Anticipated NASA Applications:
1. Accurate clock synchronization (solar system wide)
2. Fully autonomous, precision navigation (solar system wide)
3. DSN Augmentation
4. Planetary GPS enabler
5. LEO GPS backup
Microcosm has worked with NRL on exploitation of this technology for 2.5 years, and we anticipate continued access to their work during Phase I which will examine the utility, and feasibility of developing X-ray pulsar based navigation and time determination technology for candidate NASA applications. Requirements will be determined, approaches developed, and performance potential projected.
The Phase II study will develop the most promising applications. Detailed designs will be created, performance simulations developed, utility assessed, a technology roadmap developed, and a mission planning guide developed.

This technology is principally applicable to NASA lunar and interplanetary missions ?regions beyond the range of GPS which rely on the DSN for navigation. It can provide autonomous navigation throughout the solar system, greatly reducing demands on the DSN. It can also augment the DSN by providing accurate time synchronization, and position and velocity components normal to the line-of-sight to Earth, both of which will enable faster and more accurate navigation solutions. There are typically one or two missions each year that will benefit from the technology.

It could enable accurate, autonomous "GPS" for surface and spacecraft navigation at Mars or other planets. Additionally, it can enable spatially and temporally coordinated measurements over solar system scale distances. This could enable or enhance future space interferometer missions.

The reduced demands on the DSN combined with the potential for improved navigation accuracy would yield both cost savings and mission enhancements to NASA.

The primary non-NASA applications are likely to be for DoD missions. The DARPA XNAV program is focused on development of the technology for military purposes. Specific applications include navigation outside of GPS range, back-up navigation in the event of GPS denial, GPS reconstitution, and development of a super-synchronous navigation and time distribution service. Details on the DARPA XNAV program can be found on the DARPA website at:

There do not appear to be any near-term non-government applications; however, it is possible that the technology will prove viable for autonomous navigation and station-keeping for geosynchronous communication satellites.

Another potential market would be with ESA. It is likely that ESA applications would be developed cooperatively with NASA.

NASA's technology taxonomy has been developed by the SBIR-STTR program to disseminate awareness of proposed and awarded R/R&D in the agency. It is a listing of over 100 technologies, sorted into broad categories, of interest to NASA.

Guidance, Navigation, and Control
Telemetry, Tracking and Control

Form Printed on 09-19-05 13:12