Granularity and Ambiguity in Navigating the Void

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R. A. Smith et al. (2016), JBIS, 69, pp.390-401

Refcode: 2016.69.390
Keywords: interstellar navigation, ambiguity, celestial sphere, parallax, near field

In this paper we consider the issues of navigating within the generic interstellar void. The additional navigation options specific to the Alpha Centauri mission, that Project Icarus has selected as its target, are evaluated in a companion paper. Some aspects of autonomous interstellar navigation will be peculiar to interstellar missions such that existing techniques will need to be adapted or re-designed. We re-evaluate the fundamentals for determining position, speed and orientation while planning navigation in the interstellar void and examine approximations only valid in a solar system. Examples include the extent of space and time throughout which a predefined star tracker system will operate successfully (granularity) and the generation of multiple navigation solutions (ambiguity) from the same stellar measurements. Initial steps towards characterising granularity and ambiguity will be presented, to underpin future research into potential solutions. These issues do have an effect even on shorter missions such as to Alpha Centauri and they are even more applicable to the longer missions that could be undertaken subsequently. This is a submission of the Project Icarus Study Group.

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