Navigating by the Stars Makes a Comeback
CAMBRIDGE, MA—Sailors have been using the stars to navigate the oceans for thousands of years. Now Draper’s Skymark™ applies the same principle to space. “Landing a spaceship 32 million miles away on Mars is like driving a car blindfolded at a hundred mph, maneuvering into a six-foot-wide alley and parking, all without the benefit of GPS,” said Peter Lewis, Air Warfare & ISR Programs Lead at Draper. Lewis and his colleagues applied the previously developed Skymark technique to correct an emerging problem common to inertial navigation systems when access to GPS is denied: they tend to drift and lose accuracy over time, making them inadequate on their own for long-distance navigation. Skymark provides a system position fix through a unique combination of advanced optics, sensors and algorithms to triangulate off of known positions of stars and satellites. Noted Draper’s Bill Borgia, Mission Systems Director, “The result is accuracy better than 15 meters, and direction-finding with or without the availability of GPS, all in a package that works equally well for any navigating platform, including sea-level applications.” Skymark is one of the new technologies featured at Draper’s Engineering Possibilities 2017 technology showcase.