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Our Mission
Spacecraft near and far need navigation data to successfully execute their science and exploration objectives. ESC navigation engineers serve NASA in a variety of ways, supporting missions while developing technologies that enhance spacecraft navigation and guidance. These world-renowned space navigation experts are designing the satellite navigation systems and architectures of the future while serving as navigation experts on the international stage.
Technology Development
ESC assists in the development of new, revolutionary space navigation systems that enhance the agency’s exploration capabilities. The Station Explorer for X-ray Timing and Navigation (SEXTANT) uses the ultra-regular oscillations of distant pulsars, a type of neutron star, for accurate timekeeping. Precise measurements of time are a key components of space navigation, usually supplied by atomic clocks. The technologies demonstrated in SEXTANT may provide future missions with a viable alternative.
International Policy
In the policy sphere, ESC navigation experts advocate for mission-critical documentation of Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) capabilities. The GNSS consists of multiple, international constellations of GPS-like satellites. Near-Earth spacecraft have long relied on GNSS signals for accurate position, navigation and timing data, but high-altitude GNSS-based navigation is a priority for the agency. In fact, NASA may incorporate GNSS signals into the navigation architecture of the Gateway, a lunar-orbiting outpost that will enable a sustained human presence on the Moon.