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Interplanetary GPS Comes a Step Closer

A ground simulator is constructed and a space-station test is planned

4 min read
Interplanetary GPS Comes a Step Closer
Illustration: NASA

05NWInterplanetaryGPSmasterGalactic GPS: Interplanetary navigation systems are already being tested for future flights to other planets and beyond. The Juno spacecraft (above) will have to get to Jupiter the old fashioned way.Photo-Illustration: NASA

Humans have long used the light of stars to guide them toward their destinations. But in the age of extraterrestrial exploration, it could be the pulses of X-rays from dead stars that guide us through deep space. A NASA team recently built a critical system that will finally let them test such an “interplanetary GPS.” A version of the system could be installed on the International Space Station (ISS) as early as 2017.

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Top Tech 2022: A Special Report

Preview two dozen exciting technical developments that are in the pipeline for the coming year

1 min read
Photo of the lower part of a rocket in an engineering bay.

NASA’s Space Launch System will carry Orion to the moon.

Frank Michaux/NASA

At the start of each year, IEEE Spectrum attempts to predict the future. It can be tricky, but we do our best, filling the January issue with a couple of dozen reports, short and long, about developments the editors expect to make news in the coming year.

This isn’t hard to do when the project has been in the works for a long time and is progressing on schedule—the coming first flight of NASA’s Space Launch System, for example. For other stories, we must go farther out on a limb. A case in point: the description of a hardware wallet for Bitcoin that the company formerly known as Square (which recently changed its name to Block) is developing but won’t officially comment on. One thing we can predict with confidence, though, is that Spectrum readers, familiar with the vicissitudes of technical development work, will understand if some of these projects don’t, in fact, pan out. That’s still okay.

Engineering, like life, is as much about the journey as the destination.

See all stories from our Top Tech 2022 Special Report

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