• Satellite launched by China
  • It is an experimental X-ray pulsar navigation satellite 
  • The satellite weighs more than 200 kilogrammes and carries two detectors.
  • It will operate in a Sun-synchronous orbit (500 kilometers) inclined at 97 degrees.
  • It will conduct in-orbit experiments of autonomous spacecraft navigation using pulsar detectors to demonstrate new technologies.
  • It will also test its detectors’ functions in responding to the background noise of the universe, outline pulsar contours, and create a database for pulsar navigation.
What are pulsars?
  • Pulsars are highly magnetized, rotating neutron stars that emit a beam of electromagnetic radiation.
  • They are spherical, compact objects that are about the size of a large city but contain more mass than the sun.
  • Scientists are using pulsars to study extreme states of matter, search for planets beyond Earth’s solar system and measure cosmic distance.
What is X-ray pulsar navigation?
  • X-ray pulsar navigation is an innovative navigation technology in which periodic X-ray signals emitted from pulsars are used to determine location of a spacecraft in deep space. 
  • This method of navigation, based on X-ray signals emitted from pulsars is known as XNAV.
Potential Benefits
  • XNAV is expected to provide a faster estimation of spacecraft location in space as current systems are limited by the time delay at great distances.
  • It is also seen as a cheaper alternative for a radio-based system as it would require reduced ground infrastructure.
  • Besides, it is expected to lead to autonomous spacecraft navigation in the future. It will also save additional cost as X-ray satellites can be made smaller and lighter.

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