Characterization of Candidate Solutions for X-Ray Pulsar Navigation

Kevin Lohan, Zachary Putnam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


X-ray pulsar based navigation (XNAV) can be used to estimate spacecraft state information based on observation of distant pulsars. XNAV system concepts typically require an initial position estimate since there are many candidate positions which may produce the same measurement. If position ambiguity can be resolved, XNAV may enable full state estimation without prior information. This study seeks to efficiently find candidate spacecraft positions and determine how to select pulsars to minimize the number of candidate solutions within a given domain. A numeric scheme for determining candidate positions is developed for an arbitrary number of observed pulsars. Pulsar selection criteria are developed in terms of relative direction, period, and phase accuracy. Results indicate that it is more time efficient to observe additional pulsars rather than improve the accuracy of pulsar measurements. A smaller angular separation and increased period of the observed pulsars reduces the number of candidate solutions within a given domain. Phase measurement accuracy should be improved simultaneously for all pulsars rather than prioritizing a single pulsar. These selection criteria are verified by evaluating the number of candidate solutions for permutations of 34 real pulsars.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalIEEE Transactions on Aerospace and Electronic Systems
StateAccepted/In press - 2022


  • Extraterrestrial measurements
  • Indexes
  • Measurement uncertainty
  • Phase measurement
  • Photonics
  • Position measurement
  • Space vehicles

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


Dive into the research topics of 'Characterization of Candidate Solutions for X-Ray Pulsar Navigation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this