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China launches X-ray pulsar navigation satellite

By Zhao Lei | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2016-11-10 10:16

China launches X-ray pulsar navigation satellite

China launched an X-ray pulsar navigation satellite on Thursday morning, according to the China Satellite Navigation Office.

The XPNAV-1, developed by the China Academy of Space Technology, was sent skyward at 7:42 am atop a Long March 11 solid-fueled rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwestern China, the office said in a press release.

The satellite operates in a Sun-synchronous orbit and will conduct in-orbit experiments using pulsar detectors to demonstrate new technologies, said the press release.

It weighs more than 200 kilograms and carries two detectors, according to China Academy of Space Technology.

Shuai Ping, chief designer of the satellite at the academy, said that X-ray pulsar navigation is an innovative navigation technology in which periodic X-ray signals emitted from pulsars are used to determine the location of a spacecraft in deep space.

During its mission, the satellite will test the detectors' functions in responding to the background noise of the universe, outline pulsar contours, and create a database for pulsar navigation, the academy said.

It added that X-ray pulsar navigation will help reduce the spacecraft's reliance on ground-based navigation methods and is expected to lead to autonomous spacecraft navigation in the future.


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