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Center Independent Research & Development: JPL IRAD

Navigation using Deep-Space Optical Communication Systems (OptComNav)

Active Technology Project

Project Introduction

Investigate the use of optical communication links for deep-space navigation. Determine whether optical-commnication-based tracking can fulfill the navigation needs of a range of missions, and what are the advantages and disavantages when compared with alternative approaches.

This task will determine the navigation performance that is possible using the envisioned optical communications infrastructure, assessing the mission scenarios for which adequate navigation performance can be achieved. The goal is to determine the conditions under which a mission carrying an optical communications terminal need not also carry a second radio frequency transponder – thereby saving mass, power, and cost – in consequence reducing the complexity of the spacecraft and mission operations. Using JPL’s operational navigation software we will develop a set of simulations to assess optical navigation performance, using realistic estimates for the performance of future on-board and ground-based optical terminals. We will consider a suite of missions, with increasingly demanding navigation requirements, to understand under what conditions optical navigation performance would be sufficient.

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