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Sextant Navigation on the International Space Station: A Human Space Exploration DemoAstronauts on board the International Space Station (ISS) tested a hand-held sextant to demonstrate potential use on future human exploration missions such as Orion and Gateway. The investigation, designed to aid in the development of emergency navigation methods for future crewed spacecraft, took place from June-December 2018. A sextant provides manual capability to perform star/planet-limb sightings and estimate vehicle state during loss of communication or other contingencies. Its simplicity and independence from primary systems make it useful as an emergency survival backup or confirming measurement source. The concept of using a sextant has heritage in Gemini, Apollo, and Skylab. This paper discusses the instrument selection, flight certification, crew training, product development, experiment execution, and data analysis. Preflight training consisted of a hands-on session with the instrument and practice in a Cupola mock-up with star field projector dome. The experiment itself consisted of several sessions with sextant sightings in the ISS Cupola module by two crew members. Sightings were taken on star pairs, star/moon limb, and moon diameter. The sessions were designed to demonstrate star identification and acquisition, sighting stability, accuracy, and lunar sights. Results are presented which demonstrate sightings within the accuracy goal of 60 arcseconds, even in the presence of window refraction effects and minimal crew training. The crew members provided valuable feedback on sighting products and microgravity stability techniques.
Document ID
Acquisition Source
Johnson Space Center
Document Type
Conference Paper
Holt, Greg N.
(NASA Johnson Space Center Houston, TX, United States)
Wood, Brandon A.
(NASA Johnson Space Center Houston, TX, United States)
Date Acquired
March 7, 2019
Publication Date
February 3, 2019
Subject Category
Space Communications, Spacecraft Communications, Command And Tracking
Report/Patent Number
Meeting Information
Meeting: Annual AAS Guidance, Navigation and Control Conference
Location: Breckenridge, CO
Country: United States
Start Date: January 31, 2019
End Date: February 6, 2019
Sponsors: American Astronautical Society
Distribution Limits
Public Use Permitted.
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