Navigation

OVERVIEW

Spacecraft near and far need navigation data to successfully execute their science and exploration objectives. NASA navigation engineers serve ESC in a variety of ways, supporting missions while developing technologies that enhance spacecraft navigation and guidance. Our 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.

Quick Facts

Navigation
Below an altitude of approximately 1,860 miles, spacecraft in low-Earth orbit can rely on GPS for navigation data, just as users on Earth use their phones to navigate highways.
Navigation
Beyond this altitude, spacecraft must use specialized equipment and expanded signals from the Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS), including GPS and similar satellites operated by the EU, Russia, China, India, and Japan.
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The Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) mission holds the record for highest altitude GPS fix ever recorded: over 116,300 miles from Earth, or about halfway to the Moon.
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Simulations developed by Goddard navigation engineers show that GPS and GNSS signals could be an option for navigating the Gateway, NASA’s planned lunar outpost.
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NASA’s Lunar GNSS Receiver Experiment (LuGRE) will be the first mission to fix its location on the surface of the Moon using GPS.
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In 2017, Goddard Space Flight Center demonstrated navigation by X-ray emissions from rapidly rotating neutron stars called pulsars. This technology may find practical application for upcoming missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond.
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The Flight Dynamics Facility at Goddard Space Flight Center plays a pivotal role in launches for crewed and robotic missions, assisting Near Space Network personnel with critical navigation data and insight.