Navigation to the Alpha Centauri System

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R. A. Smith et al. (2016), JBIS, 69, pp.379-389

Refcode: 2016.69.379
Keywords: Icarus Daedalus interstellar navigation identify close star optimisation pulsar accuracy

In this paper we reconsider the navigation issues for the specific case of the Alpha Centauri system that Project Icarus has selected as its mission target. In a companion paper the generic case issues for navigating within any interstellar void are considered. As Alpha Centauri is close to our solar system the navigation system can be simplified to re-acquire key sightings without prior information, instead of performing incremental measurements that would otherwise demand constant synchronisation with the key guide stars. The most taxing component is identifying the guide stars against their sighted image. The usual method, with a star camera to identify them from a spatial pattern of sightings, is subject to parallax-induced and other errors. In this paper a few of the brightest stars will be identified using rules to combine their inter-stellar angles (ISAs), their brightness, and some refining parameters such as colour index. From the coarse orientation, the best persistent output stars and pulsars that support precision position fixing can be identified. The sensitivity of some preferred stars to position change has been estimated, and some anomalies are also discussed. This is a submission of the Project Icarus Study Group.

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