With India's second mission to the moon, Chandrayaan 2, all set to be launched on July 15, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is working on the infamous Global Positioning System (GPS) to help pilots find their way in and around the lunar orbit during its upcoming projects. Till date, the American space agency had been using its communication network to navigate or find way in space, where the possibility of getting lost is much higher and can result into a fateful turn.
Speaking on the latest development, Jason Mitchell, chief technologist for Goddard’s Mission Engineering and Systems Analysis Division, in a press release, said, "We’re using infrastructure that was built for surface navigation on Earth for applications beyond Earth".
"Its use for higher-altitude navigation has now been firmly established with the success of missions like Magnetospheric Multiscale mission and the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES). In fact, with MMS, we’re already nearly halfway to the Moon," it added.
Apart from finding ways for pilots in space, the proposed method is expected to ease the load on the NASA communication network and make it possible to send other more valuable data. If everything goes well and this GPS becomes a reality in the arena of space, NASA will use it in the Artemis mission, an ongoing crewed spaceflight program carried out by the agency.
What is GPS?
The Global Positioning System (GPS), originally Navstar GPS, is a satellite-based radionavigation system that provides geolocation and time information to a GPS receiver anywhere on or near the Earth where there is an unobstructed line of sight to four or more GPS satellites. The global navigation satellite system consists of three parts - satellites, ground stations and receivers. While the ground stations monitor satellites, the receiver is constantly listening for a signal from those satellites. The receiver pinpoints an exact location by calculating its distance from four or more GPS satellites.
Talking about NASA's space friendly GPS method, scientists are developing a special receiver that will be able to pick up location signals from 23-24 GPS satellites operated by the military. Apart from the GPS receiver, the NASA spacecraft will be also paired with precise mapping data to help astronauts track their locations in space or on the Moon’s surface during its upcoming missions.
The GPS receiver is based on the Goddard-developed Navigator GPS, which engineers began developing in the early 2000s specifically for NASA’s Magnetospheric Multiscale mission (MMS) mission. To make this method space friendly, scientists will now upgrade the old MMS's GPS by including a high-gain antenna, an enhanced clock, and updated electronics.