NASA Has Developed Autonomous Space Navigation That Uses Pulsars

X-Ray Navigation

NASA may have just improved our potential for deep space exploration by inventing a new type of autonomous space navigation. Known as Station Explorer for X-Ray Timing and Navigation Technology, or SEXTANT, the technology uses pulsars — rotating neutron stars that emit electromagnetic radiation — to determine the location of objects in space.

The way SEXTANT uses pulsars has been compared to how GPS navigation can provide drivers with positioning and accurate navigation using satellites orbiting around Earth. The pulsars SEXTANT uses are best observed in the X-ray spectrum, in which their beams of radiation essentially turn them into lighthouses.

To show that SEXTANT is an idea worth building on, a team of NASA engineers demonstrated the technology’s ability to locate NASA’s Neutron-star Interior Composition Explorer, or NICER. NICER — an observatory roughly the size of a washing machine — is currently orbiting Earth while attached to the International Space Station. It has been tasked with studying both neutron stars and pulsars, making it the perfect partner for SEXTANT’s first experiment.

An illustration of NICER attached to the International Space Station. Image Credit: NASA
An illustration of NICER attached to the International Space Station. Image Credit: NASA

“This demonstration is a breakthrough for future deep space exploration,” said Jason Mitchell, SEXTANT Project Manager in a NASA press release. “As the first to demonstrate X-ray navigation fully autonomously and in real-time in space, we are now leading the way.”

During November, NASA directed NICER to take readings from four specific pulsars using its 52 X-ray telescopes and silicon-drift detectors over two days. NICER then fed the information it got from the pulsars to SEXTANT. Within eight hours, SEXTANT was able to autonomously determine NICER’s location in Earth’s orbit within a 10-mile radius. SEXTANT’s readings were compared to NICER’s own onboard GPS receiver, confirming its accuracy.

“This was much faster than the two weeks we allotted for the experiment,” said SEXTANT System Architect Luke Winternitz in the press release. “We had indications that our system would work, but the weekend experiment finally demonstrated the system’s ability to work autonomously.”

Navigating Deep Space

SEXTANT is far from being complete, however, and NASA predicts it will be several years before a better version autonomous space navigation comes along. When it does, the tech will fill a huge need for space exploration. While GPS is fine for Earth and low-Earth orbit, its signal weakens the further away an object is from GPS satellites. As such, NASA’s X-ray navigation will be required for spacecraft sent far beyond Earth.

“This successful demonstration firmly establishes the viability of X-ray pulsar navigation as a new autonomous navigation capability,” Mitchell added in the press release. “We have shown that a mature version of this technology could enhance deep-space exploration anywhere within the solar system and beyond.”

With the initial experiment out of the way, NASA intends to improve the system’s flight and ground software for a second demonstration scheduled for later this year. Before SEXTANT can be considered for full-scale operations, however, NASA engineers must increase the sensitivity of its instruments while at the same time decreasing its size, weight, and power consumption.

NASA believes the autonomous space navigation could eventually be used during human spaceflight missions, or calculate position if used on missions to Jupiter, Saturn, or their respective moons.

The post NASA Has Developed Autonomous Space Navigation That Uses Pulsars appeared first on Futurism.


Baltic Sea marina uses LoRaWAN to benefit from smart street lighting

Baltic sea marina uses smart street lighting via NAS LoRaWAN

Haven Kakumäe, a yacht harbour located in the Western coast of Kopli Gulf in the Baltic Sea region, has used smart lighting through a LoRaWAN network in a bid to gain better control around energy usage and cost efficiency.

The project management team behind the Haven Kakumäe marina in the Estonian capital of Tallinn has been keen to use new technologies and to ensure the sustainable use of resources.

Their use of LoRa technology began in March 2017, and today, all of the port’s luminaires and over 500 metres of the harbour’s breakwater lighting can be controlled remotely through a LoRaWAN network. This uses Luminaire controllers manufactured by industrial automation development company Nordic Automation Systems (NAS), installed on 45 outdoor lamps.

Read more: Philips Lighting looks at city life in 2035

Reducing energy consumption

By using these controllers, NAS executives claim, the company can reduce energy consumption by turning the lights on and off at optimal times. The street lights can be set to go on at specific dates and times, for example, and the technology can monitor light intensity, so that unnecessary lighting is avoided and that lights can be dimmed where appropriate.

The controllers are connected to the LoRaWAN Gateway via radio frequency, and the network server transfers data to the gateway through ethernet, 3G or 4G. The IoT hub platform interprets encrypted data from the end nodes of the LoRAWAN back end. Haven Kakumäe then has the option to connect with external applications via APIs to use the data in third-party systems.

Haven Kakumäe has also installed more than 100 dock electrical and water distribution pedals, which are equipped with the NAS-developed LoRAWAN electricity meter which provides 24-hour access to electricity usage. The marina’s access control systems will also be controlled through the LoRAWAN network so that it can alert management of any possible unauthorized activity.

Read more: Analysis: Connected streetlights illuminate path to smart cities

Illuminating uses of connected tech

Smart lighting has been a huge growth area, but it has mainly been used in cities. Last year, Cardiff Council said it was nearing completion of its deployment of a connected lighting system using LED streetlights technology from Philips Lighting. The council claimed that the lighting system will save it over £750,000 a year and reduce energy use for public lighting by 60 percent.

The concept isn’t new; back in 2015, the UK county of Gloucestershire said it would deploy 55,000 LED streetlights to cover 1,000 square miles of the area. They would be wirelessly connected and managed via Telensa’s PLANet Central Management System.

According to Harshvardhan Chitale, vice chairman and managing director of Philips Lighting India, a division of Dutch consumer electronics company Philips, IoT-driven smart lights will “be the default” in the next five to 10 years.

“Today, when we think of buying a phone, we don’t think of a landline phone. By default, we think of a mobile or a smartphone. We anticipate that over the next five to 10 years – closer to five years – potentially, when people think of upgrading their existing lights or installing new ones, they would install lights or lighting systems which are smart,” Chitale recently told India’s largest independent news service IANS.

NAS claims that Haven Kakumäe’s use of street lights is the first for a marina in Northern Europe.

Read more: Smart streetlights may mean big savings in Cardiff

The post Baltic Sea marina uses LoRaWAN to benefit from smart street lighting appeared first on Internet of Business.

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Google quietly bought a UK startup that uses vibrations to turn your screen into a speaker

Google has quietly bought a UK startup named Redux that uses vibrations to turn phone and tablet displays into speakers, reports Bloomberg. It’s not clear when the purchase was made, or for how much the company was bought, but the acquisition happened in August last year according to Crunchbase.

Redux developed a number of technologies involving sound and touch in mobile devices, but never placed them in any major consumer products. The Verge had some hands-on time with the company’s tech last year, trying out a tablet which vibrated its screen to function as a speaker, as well as a number of displays that used haptic feedback to mimic the feel of buttons, sliders, and dials.

The results in both cases were impressive. The sound quality…

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Colgate Smart Electronic Toothbrush E1 with Artificial Intelligence uses ResearchKit, is Apple store exclusive

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The new Colgate Smart Electronic Toothbrush uses Apple ResearchKit with the user’s permission to crowdsource toothbrushing data so the company can "anticipate the future of oral care."
AppleInsider – Frontpage News

This Wi-Fi speaker uses Amiibo-like figures to play music

I don’t think of kids when I think of RFID tags, but congrats to MuuseLabs for making the connection for me. Jooki is a Wi-Fi speaker for kids. It ships with five figurines, each of which have an RFID tag embedded inside. Kids can place their toy on the speaker to cue it to play different playlists that their parents have set up. The idea is to offer kids a way to interact with physical media, since they don’t buy CDs anymore, and help parents keep them away from screens.

I checked Jooki out today at CES and found it charming. The figurines are adorable, and I love the idea of delaying kids’ screen time while still enabling them make their own decisions and interact with their own devices. The speaker pairs with a companion web app or…

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